7 Tips for Sticking with Your New Painting Hobby in 2021, According to Pros

published Jan 12, 2021
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Credit: Anna Spaller

So you mentioned aloud that you might want to pick up painting in the New Year, your loved ones overheard, and now, with the holidays in the rearview, you’re up to your ears in gifted supplies. How are you going to make sure your enthusiasm for your new interest doesn’t flag as the months go by?

It turns out that stocking up on brushes, sketchbooks, paints, and beyond is only half the battle. Nic Scheppard and Jenson Titus are the queer artists behind Very Gay Paint, a mural-painting business they built from the ground up during quarantine, and they know a thing or two (or 10) about sticking with a hobby. 

Very Gay Paint began as a passion project in July, and just six months later, the fledgling company has splashed paint across walls from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and expanded into canvas hangings, prints, and even Megan Thee Stallion-themed greeting cards. With each project, they’ve honed their quippy signature wit, racking up 15,000 Instagram followers — and sold-out bookings until well into 2021.

And all that started with just a few cans of paint and a mural in their own living room. Here, Titus and Scheppard’s advice for maintaining a long-term love affair with painting.

Credit: Sandra Rojo

Find and follow other painters and artists

The amount of people out there already making art is heartwarmingly high, so find yourself some painters whose work inspires you and pay attention. If you’re interested in large-scale wall painting specifically, Titus notes that he and Scheppard have found @banyanbridges on Instagram to be an invaluable resource. “She has a lot of tips that have helped so much,” he says.

You’re probably already following people whose art you like, so take notes on their favorite materials, processes, and designs, and even consider reaching out with a question or two if you don’t see them answered in the comments. A lot of artists are happy to share those details with folks just starting out.

If you’re looking for creators who dabble in a specific medium — such as watercolor, oil painting, acrylic painting, mural painting, or even digital art on Procreate — try searching it on Instagram. You’ll find plenty of accounts to sift through that use the relevant hashtag to catalog their art.

Prepare to get messy

Whether your media of choice is watercolor, acrylics, oil, or even a paint by number kit, one thing you’ll always want to start with is an outfit change. “Avoid any clothing that won’t look chic and fashionable with a little bit of paint on it — because you will get paint on it,” warns Scheppard from experience. 

Reach for a set of sweats that’s seen better days, or a pair of jeans that would benefit from a few errant spots of color. That way, if you don’t make a mess it can be a pleasant surprise, instead of a fashion emergency if you do.

Make sure to protect your workspace, too. Plastic drop cloths (or garbage bags!) both shield from paint splatters. If you’re working at a table, you can also lay newspaper on top of the plastic to give yourself a less slick surface to work on.

Don’t worry about making things perfect — just start

Titus has noticed that the most common time for people to give up on a painting project is in the ideation phase, before even picking up a brush, and urges new painters to push through that early obstacle in any way you can. “Painting is mostly about follow-through,” he says, “so if purchasing everything you need beforehand motivates you to follow through on the idea, make a thorough list and honor your investment.”

Speaking of investments, don’t forget that the most expensive part of picking up a new hobby tends to come at the beginning, because you don’t have anything you need on hand and have to stock up on all of it. So also, adds Scheppard cheekily: “Don’t give up when you realize how much good paint costs.”

Credit: Samara Vise

Be kind to your brushes

You will be tempted to finish a project, or even take a break, and let your brushes sit drying in the paint while you’re not using them. But Titus urges you to resist this impulse with all of your might. “One of the biggest pitfalls that beginner painters can run into is not washing brushes the second you finish using them,” he says. “Brushes, like us, are very sensitive and delicate.”

Ruining brushes during your first round of painting makes it awfully hard to start a second round, so treat your tools with care.

Give yourself permission to be bad at your new hobby

This is a big one. It’s no coincidence that the majority of people abandon resolutions and new hobbies alike just a few months into a new year. It’s no mean feat to fit a new hobby into your everyday life. And with so much pressure to be successful all at once, folks are bound to crumple. 

To avoid falling victim to the statistics, Titus recommends to “focus on the joy painting brings you. You’ll be inspired to work on your art more if you have a joyful relationship with it. Also, just remember you’re going to be very bad at it for a while, and that can be fun.”

The more you celebrate (and document!) your starting point, the clearer it will be as you start to improve. Instead of demanding success, give yourself permission to fail, and you’ll be shocked at how much more enjoyable the learning process becomes.

Put yourself out there

When asked what made them stick with this passion project for long enough to turn it into a full-blown business, Scheppard and Titus had no hesitation. “Sharing our work!” says Scheppard. “Don’t be afraid to shamelessly post your work to gauge if people would want it. Instagram is mostly a mall now, so use it that way.”

You might not be ready to start selling (yet!) but sharing your progress can help you connect with other budding artists — which brings me to Titus and Scheppard’s final tip.

Credit: Franke Chung

Get yourself a painting buddy

When all else fails, grab someone to go through the learning process with you. Scheppard and Titus have each other, of course, and highly recommend partnering up for those moments when things just aren’t going like you’d imagine. “Have your boyfriend in the room with you and project your frustration onto him,” Scheppard urges.

Even though not every moment of learning how to paint is going to be rainbows and butterflies, it is ultimately supposed to be fun. So get yourself set up as best you can, do what feels good, and surround yourself with positive energy — the skills are sure to follow.