September 07, 2017

To sit before the canvas and to commit the first stroke is the first problem one encounters. There are one thousand subjects, choices and different methods of doing it. Don’t be overwhelmed with the choices. Believe that the power to make the painting happen is in your fingers, built into them. Now start painting. Leave the mind out of it. The mind creates unnecessary chatter. Let your hands move on the canvas as if they knew what do. As your paint, the painting develops its own character.

For every artist, the fear of the unknown is a constant problem. What does the artist do with the sheet. Will he think and paint or start painting and then think? I guess it has to be an automatic act. Start practicing with doodles. Have a good sized notebook and a pencil or any drawing tool close by. This is a valuable way of jotting down images and making them happen on paper. Do not ever underestimate a doodle. These have the power to translate later into larger work. Keep all the work that you do safely, in a dry space. Damp causes a lot of damage to works.

For a young initiate into art, fear is the first thing to conquer. Masters did not become masters without making mistakes, tearing their paintings in desperation, and literally cursing themselves for trying painting. All of us have done it. I have seen fear in people's eyes as I watched them approach a sheet of paper.

Will this be a masterpiece? NO, It can be the first stepping stone to one. My friend walked in one day and said “I want to paint but I don’t know what to.” I gave her the largest sheet of paper that I had and also gave her a thick graphite stick. I asked her to doodle and waste a sheet without using erasers and left her to herself.  In a hour, when I was back, I saw a beautiful abstract work emerging. I then gave an eraser and asked her to erase what did not want. That took another half hour. The result was a big smile on my friend’s face and a really beautiful drawing.

Why I say is that is because when you want to do something, do it without fear. Take a good drawing book with extra thick paper and try pencil. Doodle on it. Try to paint whatever you see. A chair, a feather, a fern, a grass blade. Try not to use an eraser. Keep whatever you do and FOR HEAVENS SAKE DONT ASK FOR OPINION FROM OTHERS.

The first stroke. Losing fear.

The painting that you did with the love of learning is none of other people’s business. Your work should not take a beating from uninformed critics.

The first stroke. Losing fear

When you finish around fifty drawings (for this purpose you can use different types of pencils, ordinary gel pens, charcoal). The medium is not important. It is your effort to work on the sheet of paper is important. By the end of fifty works, take it to a positive minded informed critic.

Do not get frustrated by this exercise. The basic forms you can draw can be squares, circles, triangles. Then graduate to cubes, spheres and conical objects. Follow the shadow. This is the best way you can imbibe the sense of light.

If you had the patience to finish the fifty works, your guide will appear on your horizon.


Text and images by Milind Nayak

Milind Nayak is one of India’s finest artists. A prolific painter, he works in different media like oils, watercolors, pastels and other media.