Skip to content

Tips for a Sunday Painter

Tip For Sunday Painter Melissa Brown One River School
Chichen Itza, Mexico, Oil on Panel, 2017

Neither of my parents are artists, nor any of my extended family. There were no artists from generations past to which my artistic interests were compared, no inherited traits from a creative Aunt Clara. When I was a kid in the 80’s my father was working as an accountant. And yet…. despite his identification as a tried and true “numbers guy”, even he once succumbed to the irresistible desire of becoming a Sunday painter.

It happened during lunch on a Saturday. We routinely ate lunch while watching “Mighty Brush,” as we had termed him, on the black and white TV that sat on the kitchen table. The picture on the TV was fuzzy and obscured, especially since I had scratched a drawing of a heart and a tick tac toe board into the plastic screen. “Mighty Brush” was William Alexander, who was Bob Ross’s teacher, RIP. When Mighty Brush went off the air we watched Bob. Bob’s gentle ways convinced even a numbers guy that he, too, could do it. My father ordered Bob’s painting kit for $19.95 and began using to make a total of one painting. Actually, it was only half a painting. I remained fascinated by my Dad’s half-a-painting for many years, well into my adolescence, as it sat, unfinished in the laundry room, propped up against the boiler pipes. The painting was a canvas board divided by a pencil line down the center. On the left, there were some penciled-in tree shapes, on the right a painting of a knight chess piece on a checker board, rendered in alizarin crimson and green. He never tried out Bob’s techniques. I suppose ‘chess’ appealed more to his natural sensibility.

Havana Hotel, Cuba, Oil on Panel, 2015

Many years and two art degrees later, I decided that I too – desired to be a Sunday painter. I took it up because I wanted to learn how to Paint. I suspect the same goes for most people. By Sunday painter, I mean exactly, painting outside, “en plein air” – the go-to method.

New Orleans Nocturne, Oil on Panel, 2018

I continued my practice of Sunday painting in seclusion, outside of my “studio practice” and it gradually made its way to becoming more central.

I can offer some bluntly simple tips that can make the endeavor a whole lot easier.

  1. Paint something that interests you. Like, chess.
  2. Don’t buy a kit. The colors included and the quality of the paint is sub-par. Setting up an expensive and unwieldly “portable” easel in the park is a sure fire way to attract attention from people you don’t really want to talk to. Painters work alone.
  3. Limit your palate and buy quality paint. You don’t need any other blue except Ultramarine.
  4. Mentally reduce what you are looking at to only 3-4 shapes, then add detail.
  5. Paint outside either very early or late in the day; the colors are much more interesting.
  6. Don’t work from phone pics after you’ve gone home. It will never be the same.

Havana Beach, Cuba, Oil on Panel, 2015


Havana Beach, Cuba, Oil on Panel, 2015