Category Archives for "Mindset"

Meet the Evolve Artist: Alex Vinciguerra


Meet the Evolve Artist: Alex Vinciguerra

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Evolve Artist and college student, Alex, makes time to grow as an artist with a busy schedule.

Learning to become an artist looks different for each individual. Every student’s path is unique and can offer up guidance and encouragement for fellow students.

Evolve is proud to be the home of many working artists and students who generously share their experiences on how the program brought and is bringing them success. We hope you enjoy learning more about our students and instructors in these Evolve artist interviews!

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Block 4 painting by Alex V.

Meet Alex

Since 2018, Evolve artist and student Alex Vinciguerra has been developing his skills into fantastic works of art. Currently, Alex is finishing up Block 7, speed painting, and has worked through grayscale, direct painting, vacant shadows with great success. 

Before college, Alex had no intention of making art a large part of his life. Though interested in doodling and drawing, it was not until college that he began seriously pursuing art. 

Currently a senior graphic design major at college, Alex balances school and Evolve. He has some fantastic tips for students who may find themselves in the same busy phase of life, and how he capitalizes on the time he does have in order to keep growing as an artist. 

As an Evolve student, Alex is proving that even as a busy college senior, he can still succeed and reach his goals with art. His hard work and diligence have produced beautiful paintings that show careful planning and execution. 

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Block 1 drawing from direct observation.

Art Journey

Has art always been an interest of yours?

I’ve been drawing in an informal sense for as long as I can remember, though I never really even considered trying to make a living off of anything creative. Now that I’m more interested though I would love to be able to make a solid living off of it.

How did your art education journey begin?

I’ve only been seriously pursuing art for around 3-4 years. Then in my first year at college, I was majoring in Computer Science, and that was the most excruciatingly boring experience of my life (no offense CompSci people), and I did a major review of my life goals.

Eventually I decided I should go for something a good deal more creative, but I also didn’t really trust anyone for teaching fine art (I hadn’t even heard of ateliers at that point and I figured you’d need connections or something for an apprenticeship) so I settled on Graphic Design for my new major, which I do enjoy a lot and am in my final year of. 

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One of Alex's early speed paintings. 

Evolve Journey

How did you come to find Evolve?

I was subscribed to Mitch’s Pencil Kings newsletter because of some YouTube artists that I was watching...and one day I saw the email that talked about how there was some painter in NJ who could teach anybody how to paint. 

And at first, I was thinking “probably either exaggeration or scam,” but still checked it out because “what if?” And the results examples were so consistent and impressive that I started thinking “maybe?” 

Especially the charcoal from block 1, that was super convincing for me because on the one hand, I could see how it was simple, but also how it looked better than anything I had done, and it convinced me that at least this program could teach me that. Then I started hyping it up in my head, imagining myself in two years doing super cool paintings… I got in and started up in February of 2018.  

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The vacant shadows technique. 

Tips for Artists

What do you see yourself doing with your art?

First, make great paintings that provide a stable source of income...I’d also love to do paintings for churches...Portraits of people I like/admire would be cool too, and nerdy stuff with knights and/or wizards, and/or dragons are definitely on the list. And recreating scenes from good books would be really fun. Oh, and historical events. Maybe some landscapes. A lot of stuff I guess!

Do you have a personal favorite piece you’ve completed recently?

The one I just probably my favorite recent one. It’s one of the chess pieces, probably because it almost fits that nerdy category I was talking about earlier (there’s a king and a knight, good enough for me).

What tips would you give to a beginning student?

To a beginning student...don’t stop…

I mean it’s not like I never stop. In fact, I bet if you look at the submission dates for my assignments you can tell exactly when my summer and winter breaks start and end because my output is pretty consistent at 1 per day during breaks, then drops drastically to 1 every 1-2 weeks during school. 

But even when I’m not doing a painting a day, if I have a minute I try to set up for when I have a longer stretch of time. 

I think of what objects I might use for direct observation...or do the transfer sketch for a photo. Even just taping up the canvas to the piece of wood makes it that much easier to start painting when I have time. So do that.

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Alex's favorite piece to date. 


We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know one of our Evolve students, and are encouraged to take the little steps to start painting more and begin to evolve as an artist! Even with the busiest of schedules, you can make time for your art.

Learn The 4 Part Framework to Develop Pro Art Skills in 12 Months

Making Time for Art: Tips for Busy Artists


Making Time for Art: Tips for Busy Artists


How can busy people make more time for art?  Consistently carrying a sketchbook is a good way to start getting in the habit of making art whenever you have time. (Photo by Kamila Maciejewska on Unsplash)

How many hours each week or each day do you spend making your own art? If you have even a slightly busy schedule, it's probably not as much time as you’d like. 

If you work a full-time job, are raising a family, or have other non-negotiable things that take up a lot of your day, making time to set aside for art can seem like an impossible luxury or a stressful addition.

Making time for art is a discipline that needs to be both flexible and concrete. So if you feel as though your days are filled to the brim and art just keeps getting pushed down the list, this post may be for you. And if you only have small pockets of time and never quite feel as though you can accomplish your art goals at that time, keep reading and let’s explore some simple ways to find time to make art.

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Evolve students learn how to manage their time and organize paintings, like this one by Dimitris M. in order to complete complex work. 

Reclaim and Reutilize Time

The first step to making time for art is to find the time in the day that you can reclaim.

Start by doing just a little, several times a day. 

Maybe this means sketching at lunch or after dinner. It could be drawing or writing down notes of what you’d like to do while on hold on the phone. Perhaps there is a 15-minute time slot when you are waiting in the pick-up line that you can pull out your journal and sketch out ideas or practice new techniques. 

Bring a blank journal with you everywhere.

When pockets of time open up, you can bring out your sketchbook and draw or brainstorm ideas. Draw the world around you or little details. Practice finding light and shadow and differentiating between the two. Draw out ideas for paintings or still-lives and how you would light them. These quick, little sketches don’t need to be perfect, but they will get you into the habit of making art. 

Reduce your screen time.

Use the time you normally spend scrolling through social media or watching tv for making art instead. Calculate the time you spend watching tv or scrolling through social media and instead push yourself to fill that time with something that you enjoy doing and will help you to achieve your goals. Set timers on social media accounts to allow yourself to stay caught up with friends while also setting healthy boundaries on this time and reclaiming it for your art practice. 

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Reducing screen time and time on social media often yields extra time to grow in your artistic abilities. (Photo by Dai KE on Unsplash)

Set Boundaries for Your Art

How important is art to you? Is it important enough to commit time to? If it is one of your higher priorities then you might consider treating the time you spend on it a bit differently.

Treat your art practice like a class.

Block out sections of time in your weekly calendar to make art, no matter how small, and do not allow anything else to take over that time. Find a time that is free and treat your art like a class, one you have to show up to and that cannot be canceled. Do not schedule things over your “class” and take that time seriously, trying your best to show up every single week at the exact same time. Even if it is only 30 minutes or an hour, doing a little bit each week might not seem like a lot, but over time, it adds up. Give yourself a time that is only for art. No distractions, no cancelations, and no booking things during this class. 

Establish deadlines and goals.

Having clear goals is one key to staying productive in the time you have. Setting monthly, weekly, and even daily goals in your art practice will help you to break down your long term goals into doable objectives. For example, if you want to complete two homework assignments a week for Evolve, divide up the workload into manageable sections and assign those tasks to each day of the week in order to reach your goal by the end of the week. 

Establishing these deadlines and goals will help you to keep moving forward and reduce the chances of putting off your work and allowing other distractions to take the place of your art. 

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Start planning out your week in order to accomplish goals in your art, no matter how small. This chart by Kristine Oller can be very helpful for artists!

Get Involved and Get Organized

Being engaged and organized is important for artists. Isolation can lead to discouragement and a disorganized artists rarely completes tasks.  

Find an art accountability partner. 

Having an accountability buddy for your artistic practice will also help you to meet your goals. While ultimately the responsibility is on your shoulders, having someone to encourage and motivate you can be incredibly helpful. Meeting with another artist in person or online once a week can help you build momentum, have a sense of responsibility and accountability, and turn isolating art practices into an encouraging environment. 

Get organized!

Establishing deadlines, goals, and accountability often sounds too restrictive for creatives, but getting yourself organized is the key to sustainably making time for art. While flexibility is important as an artist, establishing boundaries and goals will help you avoid putting off tasks and projects that are less fun. Organized artists can stay focused and move forward, making the most of the time they have. 

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Encouragement and accountability can be found in other artists. 


Ultimately, making time for art is on your shoulders. If you find yourself saying "I wish I had time to make art", know that you will never have the time; you have to make the time. 

With responsibility, jobs, and family, things will come up that distract us from our art. But by starting small, reprioritizing, and focusing on the things you can control, you will make so much more time for your art. 

This week, try scheduling your art and setting some achievable goals. What time can you reclaim?

Learn The 4 Part Framework to Develop Pro Art Skills in 12 Months

3 Common Misconceptions about Oil Painting


3 Common Misconceptions about Oil Painting

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Oil painting is a versatile and beginner friendly medium, contrary to popular belief! Keep reading to learn more about it. (Photo by Andrian Valeanu on Unsplash)

Have you ever wanted to try oil painting, but been put off because of things you’d heard about the medium?

If so, you’ll know that there are plenty of myths and misconceptions about oil painting and oil paints. Many people who have not tried oil painting can have preconceived notions and ideas about the negative effects of oils, and these ideas hold them back from ever trying the medium.

Don’t let misinformation hold you back from learning how to oil paint and becoming a great artist. Keep reading and let’s debunk a few oil painting myths!

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Rather than oil paints, there are mediums like turpentine that are the toxic components of oil painting. However, these toxic mediums can be swapped out for safer mediums like linseed oil. (Photo by  Old Holland)

Oil Painting is Toxic

This oil painting myth is fairly common. However, the majority of oil paint is not toxic. In fact, unless you eat your oil paint, which is never recommended, there are no adverse effects to most oil paints. Oil paint is made up of natural oil and pigment, and the majority of pigments are completely safe and non-toxic. There are a few toxic ones, like lead-white, cadmium, and cobalt, but they are only toxic if you eat or breath in the dry pigment before the oil is mixed. These slightly toxic colors can also be substituted out for synthetic alternatives. 

​Oil paint itself has no smell. The unpleasant, toxic smell many people talk about comes from the solvent (turpentine or white spirits) many artists use to help the fluidity of paint, cleaning, or drying time. Leaving open turpentine lying around will indeed fill a room with a toxic fume. However, there are safer alternatives to use, like linseed oil, which is a fairly scentless, safe alternative to turpentine. Brushes can also be cleaned with a bar of simple ivory soap, rather than turpentine to keep children, pets, and yourself away from the smell and touch of turps. 

In addition, if you are using a high-quality paint, you can get away without using medium, using the paint straight from the tube. Medium is only necessary to change the characteristics of the paint. It can speed or slow drying, increase transparency, or increase fluidity, but can also be left out of your painting process entirely. 

So the myth that oil painting is toxic really has little to do with oil painting, and more to do with unsafe practices and unnecessary mediums. 

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While some oil paints are expensive, because they are high quality and well pigmented, they last much longer, saving you money. (Photo by Old Holland)

Oil Painting is Too Expensive

Investing in top tier oil paint can be expensive, but lower quality paint lends a less desirable effect. Consider this: if you could invest in very pigmented, expensive paint that lasts longer and get better results, wouldn’t you take that over watery, inexpensive oil paint? 

The lower quality paint, while more affordable, can hold you back. Better paint won’t make you a better artist, but as you learn, it won’t hold you back. 

Student grade paint often yields the same result. Because extra binders (oil) is added to stretch the paint, there is less pigment and an excess of oil. This makes painting more difficult because the tools will prevent you from making your best work.

Investing in quality paints will also mean your tools last much longer. Because of the density of the pigment, the paint can be stretched farther with medium (and you can choose a safe one, like linseed oil). So rather than purchasing cheap paint constantly as you run out, a top-quality tube of paint can last much longer, saving you money.

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Some techniques, like impasto or puddling, do take longer to dry. But by working in thin layers or directly painting, the oil paint is dry within 24 hours. (Puddled painting by Michael B.)

Oil Painting Takes Too Long to Dry

This common oil painting myth can be avoided. Oil paint only takes a long time to dry in very certain circumstances. Depending on the color, some oil paints will dry a bit slower than others, but if you are working with a smooth, thin, opaque layer of paint, your painting will most likely be dry within 24 hours. 

However, certain colors like white may take a bit longer to dry depending on the application thickness. Painters who use the impasto technique, or puddling, will often have to wait a week or two for their paint to dry. Very, very thick impasto can take several months. But if you choose to work in a thinner manner, your paint will dry very quickly. 

A medium can also change the drying time of the paint. Linseed oil helps paint to tack up and dry within six hours and be fully dry in about 24. Using just an alkyd, your paint will start to dry within four hours. But if you choose a medium like a clove oil, your paint may stay wet for several days to weeks. 

These mediums can be helpful if an artist likes to work into wet paint, but certain mediums can also help to speed up the drying time. 

The myth that oil painting takes too long to dry really depends on how you are painting, and in general, oil paint dries quite quickly. 

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Don't let misconceptions hold you back from learning how to oil paint! 


There are many oil painting myths, but by looking a bit deeper, we can see that they can easily be disproved. Oil painting is a simple, safe way to create art and paintings and is suitable for students and professionals alike. 

Now that you know some of the truths behind common oil painting myths, you’re ready to tackle the medium and discover the benefits of oil painting

Learn The 4 Part Framework to Develop Pro Art Skills in 12 Months

How to Varnish an Oil Painting


How to varnish an oil painting

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Varnishing an oil painting is an essential part of the painting process. (Photo by Will Kemp)

Varnishing an oil painting is an important part of the painting process. If you’ve completed an oil painting, you’ll notice that once completed and dry, the surface of the painting isn’t quite even. It has areas that shine and others that appear quite dull and matte. 

Varnish comes into play in these situations to protect, even out, and improve the aesthetic finish of an oil painting. Along with this, it can protect a painting from environmental damage, like dust, dirt, or smoke. When a painting is finished with a removable varnish it can be cleaned by removing that layer, and the dirt from decades or centuries that has affixed to the top layer can be eliminated without damaging the painting. 

Learning how and why artists varnish their work in an important part of an oil painting. The process can be done quite easily and can improve and protect the final oil painting.

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An example of before and after varnish, with the colors brought back to the luster of when they were wet. (Photo by Cowans)

What Does Varnish Do?

Applying varnish to an oil painting helps to combat the uneven drying of paint layers. Because some oil paint pigments contain more oil than others, they may dry more glossy than others. Others contain less oil and dry with a matte finish. Darker color especially tend to dry and lose their original luster. Varnish helps to even out the final painting at the very end to unify the layers and different colors of paint. 

In addition to aesthetic uses, this protective coat offers a dust-resistance and protective final coat for the painting. Many varnishes have UV light resistors to protect the paintings from fading when exposed to light. Most are acrylic, some removable and mineral spirit based rather than water-based. For this reason, varnish should always be used in a well ventilated or preferably outdoor area. 

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The in process restoration of "Portrait of a lady with a dog" 1590s, by Lavinia Fontana 1552-1614, restored by Rebecca Gregg Conservation. The left side has had the original varnish removed, while it remains on the right half.

Varnish in History and Restoration

The old masters used varnishing often in their painting process, with select artists writing about their experiences. Many renaissance painters favored a glossy finish to complete their paintings, which not only increased the feeling of a glow and atmosphere but increased the feeling of dimension in the painting. 

However, many historical varnishes became cracked, dirtied, and discolored over centuries. Due to the lack of knowledge behind the proper compounds to create a clear, colorfast protective coat, many famous paintings have had to undergo restoration to remove their varnish and restore the painting’s former luster. 

Fortunately, because of the use of ancient varnishes, many masterpieces have been cleaned, restored, and preserved. A restorationist will use a removing solution to carefully strip away the old varnish, without damaging the painting beneath. The painting can then be recovered with a modern solution to protect from dust, light, and other elements. 

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An unique view of the layers of a painting and the protective varnished layer. (Illustration courtesy of Gamblin)

Which Varnish Should I Use and How?

Varnishes used for oil painting are typically acrylic and can be applied by either a spray or brush. Using a brush can often produce unexpected results, ranging from uneven coverage to bubbles on the surface of the painting. Here at Evolve, we urge our students to use a spray varnish, which evenly and lightly coats the surface of the painting. 

Aside from the application process, varnish can be roughly broken down into permanent and temporary. Permanent varnish, also called picture varnish, is just as it sounds: permanent. It can only be applied after the painting thoroughly dries, anywhere from 2 months to two years. Though conservationists can carefully removed it, the permanent version usually protects paintings that will not be retouched or cleaned for many years. 

Temporary varnish, also known as re-workable, temporarily restores colors and can be reworked upon. It is thin and can be applied to the painting as soon as it is dry to the touch. Because if it's thin nature, it allows the paint to continue to deeply dry without cracking. 

Choosing a varnish depends on your painting style, but re-workable options prove a good choice for beginner painters. 

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An painting in the process of varnishing by Jason Walcott.


Varnishing a painting is an important part of the oil painting process. Both for aesthetic and protective purposes, this important layer should be applied to every painting a student creates once they dry. Remember to choose a reworkable varnish, so that your painting can always be restored to its final luster. 

For one of the Evolve recommended spray varnishes, click here.

For more information on historical varnish and conservation, click here.  

Learn The 4 Part Framework to Develop Pro Art Skills in 12 Months

How to Choose the Right Paintbrush for Oil Painting


How to choose the right paintbrush for oil painting

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​Choosing the right paintbrush is an important part of learning how to paint.

As any beginner artist knows, choosing the right oil paintbrush can be tricky. With hundreds of styles and sizes, finding the right brush for your painting can be confusing and even frustrating.

But utilizing the right size and style tool for the area where you are painting is an important choice. While good tools don’t make good paintings, the right tools can help you to do better work.

Fortunately, there are a few easy things to learn about paintbrushes and their styles that can help you to make an informed choice before you begin to paint. Keep reading to learn more about your brushes and find out how you can choose the right oil paintbrush!

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There are several different shapes of brushes that work well for different techniques and areas in your painting. (Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash)

Parts of an Oil Paintbrush

Each paintbrush has the same anatomy, and it is made up of three parts. These three sections of the paintbrush are the bristles, the ferrule, and the handle. The bristles of the paintbrush are simply the hair that carries the paint. They can be stiff or pliable, each one leaving a unique mark. Stiffer brushes are often made of hogs hair or a synthetic bristle that can be used for scrubbing paint onto the canvas or leaving behind texture. A softer bristle, often made up of  soft hair, will yield a smoother result and more control. 

Bristles can be made of natural animal hair or synthetic hair. Natural hair brushes are often the most sought after, as they tend to be very soft and fine. However, synthetic brushes are a fantastic choice and can come in a range of very soft to very firm. Here at Evolve, our students use a range of synthetic brushes for their paintings.

The ferrule is the metal band that attaches the bristles to the handle. It holds them in place and keeps them together. It is important never to allow the paint to reach up to the ferrule. If this happens, the paint can dry close to the metal and become hard to clean. Once it dries near the ferrule, the bristles often spread, making it difficult to gain control with the brush. 

The handle of the paintbrush can be long or short  and made up of wood or plastic. If you choose a longer handled paintbrush, you can get some distance from your painting, but a shorter brush can enable you to render details with greater control. 

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Difference in sizes between brush styles. (Photo by Anna Daudelin on Unsplash)

Different Types of Paintbrushes

There are several different styles of paintbrushes to choose from. Time and practice will help you to discover which one you prefer, but the size of the are in which you are working and your painting style can also help to inform your brush choice. 

Here are a few different oil paintbrush shapes:

  • Round: Round shape with a pointed tip, that is often used for fine details with a smaller brush or signatures. The stroke of a round brush doesn’t vary, so it is ideal for control in small areas. 

  • Flat: Flat bristles with squared ends that can be used for filling large spaces or blending paint. Because they can carry more paint, they can cover larger areas and create smooth edges and encourage a sweeping stroke. 

  • Filbert: A flat brush with rounded ends that can be used to apply paint or to create softer edges. Evolve students start with mostly filbert brushes, as these brushes are ideal for blending gradients. 

  • Fan: These brushes are flat and shaped like a fan. They are excellent for blending paint or softening edges, or a well-used brush can create patterns and interesting marks. Each brush comes in a variance of sizes, ranging from very fine to larger than an inch. Keep in mind that different styles and brands of paintbrushes may vary in sizes, so always check before you buy. 

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Differences in marks are due to pressure and brush shape. (Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash)

Which Brush Should I Use?

Finding the paintbrush that works best for your particular situation may take some time and trials. Start with a simple filbert, maybe in a 2, 6, and 12, and see where that gets you. You may want to explore a wider brush, or perhaps a round. 

Evolve students start their painting journey with mostly filberts, and as they grow in their techniques are able to experiment with different styles and sizes. 

Consider investing in a few, quality, medium to large stiff brushes, and a few smaller soft brushes. Explore which ones fit you best in your painting style. Don’t give up on a brush if it feels uncomfortable at first, instead, hold on to it as it may come in handy later. 

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Evolve Paintbrushes are, at first, mostly filberts ranging from a size 2 to a size 12.


Finding the brushes that suit you best takes time. Just remember that in order to find out what you like, you must paint and practice! 

Take your time and experiment with different brush styles until you find what works best for your painting technique. 

Remember to take good care of your brushes

Learn The 4 Part Framework to Develop Pro Art Skills in 12 Months