Create your own folk art paintings

Folk Art means different things to different people. Blankets, clothing, baskets or items that are distinctly ethnic are all considered folk art. What these items have in common is the skill to make these unique crafts have been passed down through generations within a family or cultural group. True folk art cannot be taught in school.

For the purpose of creating your own folk art, you have two options. The first is to think back to a skill learned from your parents or grandparents and revive that tradition. Unfortunately many of these traditions are so long gone they cannot be revived. The second option is to create something reminiscent of folk art. Create something that has a simplistic, primitive or ethnic look to it. This is known as contemporary folk art.

To create your own contemporary folk art, you can paint on wood, tin cans, or even furniture. You can use just about any item that has a paint-able surface from rocks to a canvas. The best paint for such projects is acrylic paints. Acrylic paints are more versatile than oil paint because they can be applied to almost any surface, they dry more quickly, and do not yellow.

A fun way to get the hang of creating folk art is to paint on rocks. Go outside and pick a medium sized rock (a little bigger than your hand). Wash the rock clean of all dirt and debris, and then paint your rock white. Next, spend some time observing the rock. If you stare long enough, you will find that your rock resembles something. Perhaps it is rectangular like the American Flag, perhaps a pointed end like a bird’s beak, or perhaps it is round like a turtle. Once you can see an item or creature in your rock, you can draw the image and then transform the rock by painting it. Add as much or as little detail as you desire.

Start by drawing a simplistic scene on your canvas. This scene does not have to be realistic. To generate ideas for your scene, look at children’s picture books and coloring books. Remember to keep your images simple. Paint a picture of a house on a lake, or a simple bouquet of flowers.

If you still feel intimidated, practice with a small canvas and a coloring book picture. You can find pictures on the internet by doing a search for “folk art coloring pages” or “free folk art patterns”. Using transfer paper, trace the picture onto your canvas. Then paint the picture in the same way you would color it in with crayons. Do not worry yourself with shading, perspective, or dimensions. Folk art paintings are generally two-dimensional. Use black paint and a thin brush to outline your images. Use bold primary colors like red, blue, yellow, green, black, white, purple and orange. Relax and have fun! If you find you are taking the project too seriously, invite a child to help you. The final product should consist of childlike and simple images.

Once you have the hang of creating simple, fun scenes and images, you are ready to graduate to a full-sized painting that you will be proud to hang in your living room. With some practice, you may become a contemporary folk art artist.

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