Modern Art 101

Written by Supernova

Mar 4, 2021

Art is just one of many ways we can express ourselves – our feelings, our personalities and the way we see the world around us. Painting is just one way to create a masterpiece that reflects our emotions with bursts of colour, but there is far more to painting than just dipping a brush in some paint and stroking a canvas. There are so many techniques that you could use that allow you to go wild, release your pent-up creativity, and explore and push the very boundaries of art.

We’re going to let you in on a few trade secrets of the great artists to help you get those creative juices flowing so you can show the world exactly what you’re made of!

Pointillism art

Pointillism is a technique where small, but distinct dots of pure colour are painted onto a canvas to create an image. It is very different to the traditional methods of painting that blend pigments on a palette. While painting, dots are grouped according to their colour to show the difference between the outline of an image and its background. For example, the outline of a blue T-shirt against a yellow wall – all painted with dots.

You need to think about what colours you are going to use side by side to intensify the hues. You’ll also want to think about what colours you can use together to seemingly create a new colour when people look at your painting from far away. For example, a vase viewed from a distance may look purple, but in actual fact you painted blue and red dots very close to each other to create the image.

A pointillist painting of an eye.

Paint your own pointillism picture

This is an easy way to try your hand at pointillism:

  • Find a colour picture in an old magazine or newspaper.
  • Place a piece of paper on a newspaper covered surface to avoid messing.
  • Look at the picture you have chosen and lightly sketch your version of it onto your paper
  • Use the same colour paints as the colours in the reference picture to paint dots onto your sketch. If you like, sketch a second and even third picture and use different colours in each.
  • Hang your pictures side by side on a wall to get a cool pop art effect.

Some helpful tips

  • Your dots can be different sizes and colours. Your picture will be more intricate if you use small dots. Dots can be painted in a specific direction, in a pattern or at random.
  • Use lighter secondary colours to add highlights to your painting or darker secondary colours to add shading. For example, you can darken green areas with blue dots or lighten orange areas with yellow dots. 
  • You can use round sponge tips, cotton swabs or ear buds dipped in paint to make dots. 
  • Use different size tools to make different size dots.
  • Pens and markers are great substitutes for paint and are more accurate if you are a beginner.

Action painting art

Action painting reflects the act and process of painting itself, in other words how you actually apply the paint onto your canvas through movement. Paint is spontaneously dripped, poured, sprayed, rolled, splashed or smeared onto a surface. There are no rules so you could, for example, gently flick paint onto your canvas or wildly run up to it and splash paint all over it. Because there are no rules, you could even ask a friend to join you to create an abstract masterpiece. So go wild, have fun and let your paint fall where it may!

A piece of artwork with multicolored paint.

Create your own action painting

Action painting is a really fun way to show the world how you feel or show off your awesome personality and creativity.

So get your creative juices flowing and try this:

  • It’s a messy process, so cover your work surface with newspaper and put on an apron or an old shirt.
  • Lightly sketch an image onto paper before turning it into a crazy, cool abstract piece.
  • Try and outline and colour in the image with splashes, sprays, smears… or any other way you can think of to apply paint.
  • Try and create an image from scratch by applying paint to your paper in any way you like.
  • Don’t think of painting an image at all, but express yourself and show the unique person you are by simply going crazy. Don’t hold back for anyone!

Some helpful tips

  • Try different action painting techniques, tools and paints for different effects. Be as creative as you want to be.
  • Think paint brushes, old tooth brushes, combs, sticks, balloons filled with paint and even your hands.
  • You don’t even have to use paint – you can use coffee, tea or even berry juice to get cool effects.

Freehand drawing

It’s just you, your pencil and some paper. The tricky, but really fun part about freehand drawing is that you’re not supposed to look at your paper while you’re sketching. You’re only allowed to look at your work once it is done. Some freehand artists look at a person or an object while they are sketching. Other freehand artists let their imaginations run wild while they draw, not really thinking about what they are drawing.

Either way, the result is a silly, unrealistic, but truly unique sketch. The sketch is then used as the framework for an abstract painting. Freehand drawing always serves up a good few chuckles, so get sketching and get laughing!

Freehand art drawing of three faces.

Fun freehand drawing

This is a fun (and rather funny) way to draw freehand:

  • Choose someone you would like to draw. This could be your best friend, a sibling, a girl or boy you like… If you feel like being a bit naughty you could choose a teacher you don’t like (but don’t get caught!).
  • Without looking at the paper (not even once), try and draw an image of the person.
  • Cover your work surface with newspaper.
  • Be creative and fill in your drawing with some paint, using brush strokes or any technique you like.
  • Have a good laugh!

A helpful tip

  • If you like something a bit more adventurous than a pencil, try drawing with charcoal or pastels.

Mixed media art

This is where the fun begins! Best known as post-modernism, mixed media art reflects many types of art. Most importantly, mixed media combines different techniques to create a single artwork. For example, traditional styles of painting are used alongside action painting and freehand drawing.

Mixed media artists also use more than one visual art medium, such as paint, ink, stamps, photographs, pictures from a magazine, fabrics and found objects… The sky is the limit!

Art with predominantly red mixed medium.

Create your own mixed media masterpiece

Don’t be limited by the list we give of what you’ll need:

  • As always, cover your work surface with newspaper and place your piece of paper on top. Don’t forget to cover yourself too.
  • Choose the best type of paint for the result that you would like to see in your finished work. Remember, watercolours are thin and transparent, while oils and acrylics are thicker and opaque.If you’re using more than one kind of paint, start with watercolours, followed by acrylics and oils.
  • You can use any painting technique you like.
  • Allow each layer enough time to dry before you paint the next layer.
  • Once your paint is dry, paste a few magazine clippings, photographs or small objects onto your art with some wood glue.
  • Use markers to draw over the paint, or some more paint to colour over the pasted things.
  • You’re the artist, so we’ll let you decide!

Some helpful tips

  • Thick board is better than paper if you are going to use heavy objects in your art.
  • If you’re using more than one kind of paint, remember that some paints dry faster than others, for example, acrylics dry faster than oils.
  • If you want to layer different types of media, choose them carefully and remember to allow enough time for paint to dry before you paste an image or object over it.
  • Build bulky layers (like oils and heavy objects) on top of thinner layers (like watercolour and magazine clippings).
  • Don’t be limited with paint for colour. Remember coffee, tea and berry juice! Pastels and charcoal can be smudged for a post-modern feel.
  • For yellow, try some pollen!

Now that you are ready to express yourself like a true artist, remember to sign your artworks 
and send them to

Vol 2.1 cover

This article first appeared in Supernova Volume 2.1
Words by Andrea Vermaak
Illustrations by Dwayne Wiese

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