How To Make Amazing Color

I wanted to do something special today and give a little tutorial on color. Specifically, I want to show you how to create color combinations that go well with one another.

As you might have guessed, the secret comes down to differences! Watch the video and let me know what you think – which colors are your favorites to pair together?

In gratitude, Nicholas

PS My free online workshop is starting on Tuesday, February 6th and I would love to see you there. To sign up, just go to

How to Make Your Art Bigger

Nicholas Wilton's studio about a week away from a solo show.

Nicholas Wilton’s studio about a week away from a solo show.

So how do you make your work hold up when it gets super big? I mean really big, like 8-10 ft. big. At that scale – or actually any time your work gets bigger than yourself – it can either fall down or be stupendous. Scale makes everything better or worse. I am asked frequently how to scale up work effectively by my students. I have written about this before, but since then, I think I have had some more clarification that has come from my own struggles with this issue.

Here are three points I keep in mind when I am making my art big.


When making art that is bigger than yourself, it is important that the art looks exciting, not just from close up, but also from across the room. Sometimes when our art is large, we stand right up close and get lost in all its detail. However, from a distance the viewer can’t see these subtleties. If it doesn’t look interesting from a distance then no one will spend the time walking across the room to look at it.

A strong work of art needs amazing detail, subtlety (I call this the quiet conversation) juxtaposed with bold, loud composition created by relative big differences in value contrast which makes it possible to see clearly from far away (loud conversation.) Both conversations need to be equally strong, however the former has slight differences in value and in the latter, big differences. Value, which is the degree of lightness or darkness of something, is primarily what controls these two conversations.

I like to think of how my art would look to someone driving by a gallery in a car traveling at 25 mph. If, in that one second, the loud conversation is compelling, then and only then will the driver pull over and come into the gallery to have a look at my work.


When the work gets bigger, then so should the tools used to make that work. Imagine a 1” brush being used on a 12” square painting. The brush relative to the size of the art is quite large. Now if you make that 12” square painting 72” x 72” square, it has grown in scale 36 times! Taking a brush only slightly bigger, say 2”, will in no way be enough to generate a similarly powerful brushy feeling of the 12” painting. Basically, going larger with your tools will help you scale up the feeling you achieved in the smaller work.

Also, what might be a bold gesture, done with a twist of the wrist on a smaller work might not be enough once the work becomes larger. Your emotion and the physical movement of mark making will have to also grow in scale to pull off larger work. Larger tools will help you achieve larger work. And remember that to lose control and to invite spontaneity into a large work of art you must really embrace it to be noticeable.

In other words, practicing out of control in a corner that no one will notice isn’t really losing control. You know what I mean…I do this too. We need to step it up in a major way, in all ways, to pull off big scale.


When working on your Art, especially something at scale, it is important that you push yourself to think beyond the confines of the edges of your actual Art. Imagine that your art is merely a window into something bigger. Imagine you are creating a cropping of something that is bigger as you work. A shape that is made while worrying about the actual boundary of the art will feel small and self-conscious compared to one that can disregard the physical edges of the Art.

Imagine while you are working on your art that there is 12”or even 20” of border beyond the canvas. This is there for you to consider as well; it can be a runway for mark making to begin or end that will cross over or out of the actual art you are making. If you can play, work, like there are no boundaries, your art will feel more expansive. Sometimes I even let my brush paint on the actual studio wall outside the borders of the canvas.

Be expansive in all ways so that your art will not just look large but will feel large as well. It needs to be both.

Keeping these points in mind as you scale up really helps me.

What ways or thoughts do you use to make your Art bigger? Please comment below.

In gratitude, Nicholas

Don’t Forget the Wax

I’ve been getting quite a few questions recently about one of my tools: cold wax medium. So, I thought I would make a little video about it for you all to enjoy!

Watch the video and let me know what you think – what special tools do you use in your art practice?

In gratitude, Nicholas

PS I’m starting my free online workshop soon and I would love to have you come along. To register, just go to

PSS You can order some of the cold wax medium I use by going here:

The Thinking That Can Save Your Art

889_One of the trickiest parts of being an artist is maintaining momentum. I struggle with this and I also am amazed at how many artists that I work with do too.

The making of Art can be super hard and then it can feel easy and effortless. It is a roller coaster ride that, for the most part, is tolerable. After all, life is like that too. We have good days and bad days.

However, when we add the additional difficulty of just showing up, of trying to squeeze our art practice into our busy life, it all can feel somewhat exhausting. In fact, for many artists, it can derail their ability to make art at all. It just is too overwhelming.

However, it doesn’t have to be. The key to this is understanding that there are 2 challenges here: the first being the actual garden-variety struggle involved with art making, while the second has to do with creating a sustainable art practice.

Art making always involves a degree of struggle. Getting information about materials, getting clear on what your own art is about takes time. It is an ongoing process. However, fixing the second one, making it easier to actually show up to make the work, is far easier to remedy. It has a lot to do with your thinking. And that can change very quickly.

After years of making art I came to an important realization about my art practice. It has buoyed my art making and has saved me countless hours of time.

It really is quite simple. And it is this:

Changes come more easily when you are making your Art than when you are away and merely thinking about it.

I used to do a lot of worrying and fretting in the middle of the night about whether my work was good enough or how I might fix certain problems. I would spend considerable time looking at other artists’ work to see if maybe the answers might lie there. It wasn’t that worrying and spending time searching the Internet for answers wasn’t helpful, as sometimes it did shed some light onto my challenges. However, it just became tiring to be always thinking about the difficulty in my art 24/7.

I was involved in the struggle of making art even when I wasn’t making art, which was pretty much most of my day. So I stopped. I realized that if I just postponed worrying about the art till I actually was in front of it that I could save myself hours of needless time focusing on trying to solve imagined problems.

And then I found out something wonderful and surprising.

I came to see that solving the problems and improving my art was far easier to do when I was actually in front of it, than when I was out to dinner 5 hours later with friends or even trying to sleep. It seems obvious now but it took me years to figure this out.

Additionally, much to my surprise, rarely were the imagined problems, the ones I was constantly thinking about when I was not making art, as difficult or as complicated as they turned out to be once I was. Things just were not that bad once in my studio listening to Earl Klugh on my Bose headphones and proactively making real changes to my art.

My father used to say to me that our problems, our challenges in life will never look bigger, feel more daunting than they do at 2 am in the silent darkness of a sleepless night. I think there is a lot of truth to this. Context matters.

There is no burning imperative to figure everything out remotely, when you cannot even see your art. You don’t have to do it the hard way. Avoiding this pattern will free up a huge amount of time and energy for when you are actually making art.

Instead of overly thinking everything, spend the time you are not making art doing those things that inspire and make you feel alive. It is, after all, the richness, the quality of the time you spend not making art, that so powerfully and poetically effects the time when you do.

In gratitude, Nicholas

Do Anything

When I used to start a painting, there was always a little period of time where I would stare at the blank panel, unsure of what to do. As the years have gone by however, I’ve developed a trick to get past this artistic road block.

Watch the video, and let me know what you think – how do you figure out where to go next with your work?

In gratitude, Nicholas

PS I’m starting my free online workshop soon and I would love to have you come along. To register, just go to

How to Know When You Need to Change Your Art

886_It seems once you arrive at a good place with your work, in no short time, this place begins to lose its appeal. Over time it even can become boring. The only way out of this is to change our work. Knowing how or when to change is not always apparent. This can be tiring, scary and bewildering. It seems we never can just arrive and stay happily ever after.

This might be why making art is so challenging for people to start – certainly it plays into why so many artists find making art unsustainable. Do you ever wonder why you signed up for a lifetime of pushing this big rock always uphill? I do.

There is, however, a way out. And this way out is called change. Yes, it is hard, but even with its inherent uncertainty it is far more palatable than the onset of boredom. This state is worrisome because like an incoming tide at night, it happens so slowly that you sometimes don’t even realize it is happening. Boredom in your practice can be incredibly time consuming and emotionally draining. Going through the effort of making art with all its costs and time only to later realize that you never really liked doing it or where you ended up can be super depressing. Sometimes it can feel so bad that you can feel like giving up art entirely.

So it is important to catch boredom early and instigate change. But how do you know it is time?

I have a difficult time recognizing when it is time to change and shift my art into a new direction. Over the years however I can look back and see a pattern in the clues that slowly begin to arrive. Most of the time I have ignored them, thinking I can avoid the inevitable. I try now to just be proactive as soon as the first signs of needing to change begin to arrive. It saves me a lot of time and heartache.

Here are the 3 clues that consistently show up. When these 3 arrive they help me to know that fortunately, unfortunately it is time to change. Maybe they can help you too.

Change in your Art might be needed when…

1 You look more and more outside your Art for reassurance.

When my work loses it’s potency and I am too afraid to change it, I tend to focus on what the gallery, or collectors or even friends have said positively about my work. I must be doing well because I sold this or someone said that positive thing about my painting, is a thought that might cross my mind. I even re-read favorable emails to bolster my sense that I am still happily on course. The problem is, of course, that it actually is never enough. In Art it should never be about what everyone says, or how or who bought your art or how many likes you received on facebook. The resting place is only found by actually making your Art and making it more and more like you. Creating Art that you love, even if that feeling only lasts for a week, thankfully, trumps all externalities.

2 Your day seems long.

Losing track of time might be the gold standard for what we are all after in our Art making. I often say this during the later stages of a workshop once everyone in the room is comfortable and have totally dropped into making Art. There is a palatable hum in the room, a collective ease and just this meditative focus that occurs when everybody is finally just making their art. The anxiety and the comparisons with the work of others fades away, and all that remains is color, wonder and curiosity. This state, this way of being like a kindergartener making art, is as good as it gets. It is also when time amazingly stops. If it has been awhile since this has happened to you, then more often than not your art is signaling to you that it needs to change.

3 You compare yourself to others

It is important to look at art that amazes you. It is dizzying to spin around the internet and see the myriad forms of expression that exist. I no longer can do this anytime near my bedtime because I can’t sleep afterwards. It is that inspiring, that wonderful.

But the practice of looking at the art of others is very different from the practice of making your own. It can feel like we are progressing by spending inordinate amounts of time looking at others’ work but ultimately our work only really progresses when we are quietly standing in front of it. When our art loses its allure because it has remained the same too long in our eyes, then standing in front of it no longer fills us, stimulates us in the way it once did. So we go to the next best thing: Art, not made by us but by others. It seems logical but going, once again, outside yourself for the answers never really provides them. If you find yourself spending more and more time looking at other artists’ work it might just mean that boredom within in your own practice is setting in.

The challenge, the hard part of making strong art, is also its supreme gift. This idea that we can’t really game the practice of making art is a good one. We have to be truly into it, totally engaged to make something worthwhile, and though this can be challenging, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

To be reminded every day, every time we step into the practice of making art that we need to pay attention, right now, right here, is a blessing. It is a good thing to be vigilant to the fact that our time here is truly limited. What we make matters and will ultimately be measured by the changes that occurred, the risks taken and whether or not we truly were present at the time.

Have your experienced any of these 3 signs of boredom in your work? How have you dealt with them? I would love to read your thoughts on this.

In gratitude, Nicholas

The Power of You

Sometimes the art we make can look like someone else’s art. We all want to be original but the fact is we are all seeing and getting inspired from the thousands of images we see. How original can we be? Recently I was working on a painting and saw how similar it was to another artists work. It surprised me and made me wonder about originality and influence. I was reluctant to talk about this because I saw how attached I was to being so original.

We are all unique but we also share the same world. How original can we be? Why are we so attached to being so? And in the end are we?

I am curious and would love your feedback.

In gratitude, Nicholas

PS By the way, here’s a link to the amazing artist’s work I mention in the video:

PSS I’m starting my free online workshop soon and I would love to have you participate – plus it’s a great way to kick off the new year! To register, just go to

Where to Find the Answer

890_Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to finish paintings, or the business aspect of my art, that I can lose track of what I actually am doing in my art. What is this art all about? Where is all this headed?

I know that I am dead set on improving, and I am always looking for signs of this in my art, but forgetting to ask this larger, more salient question about overall direction can often postpone one’s creative progress.

Just because the work looks better might not necessarily mean we are headed in a direction that is truly ours. Just like travelling down a road in order to arrive at a destination, there are circuitous routes and there are direct routes. From time to time I like to take both of these.

However, what I don’t particularly enjoy is repeatedly going into cul-de-sacs. Those give you the feeling of moving, but since you actually are just going in circles you always arrive at the same place over and over again. Ultimately this leads to boredom and although your work is repeating quite nicely, it is, in the end, remaining the same. The whole concept of going somewhere, the evolution, at least for now, has quietly come to a standstill.

And sometimes this is fine of course. It isn’t always about getting somewhere. It is ok to have a resting place. But eventually the innate desire for one’s work to become more aligned with oneself begins to grow.

So how do you find your way back onto a road that is actually going somewhere you are pretty sure you want to go?

It is a challenging question. It is also one, I have come to realize, that needs to be asked frequently. The answer, at least in part, can be found, not by trying to imagine unmade work in the future but by simply turning around from time to time and looking at the arc of your art behind you.

This is just such a simple idea but it is one that I so often forget. The trail of work, the evidence of my past efforts, some good, some not so good, that is building up behind me holds significant parts of the answer to this very relevant question.

Make it a habit to review what you have been making. Look for aspects of the work that still resonate with you. In other words, what is a Yes! And more importantly, what is a No? It might be color, it might be some kind of spontaneity or mark making but whatever it is, if it still is relevant, if it still sparking for you then re-affirm this in the future work. Keep it.

Conversely, if there are aspects that no longer feel like you, be proactive and let them go. This actually is the harder action to take. It is the same kind of nagging difficulty with letting go of all those clothes that, although are perfectly fine, are no longer like you. It is hard but important to shed them.

If you can move forward with your thinking more focused upon what you actually do love, what aspects of your art making that have in the past brought you more alive and unceremoniously leave behind those that no longer do, then your art will shift. It will improve.

It might feel a bit foreign initially to be setting off in a new direction, especially in a car that most of your baggage has been removed from. However it is this partial emptiness, the spaciousness that you have created that enables the new, more relevant aspects of your future art to be ushered in.

It is exciting and entirely possible, now that you are moving again, that just up ahead or around that next bend, you just might find even more of the answer you have been looking for…

In gratitude, Nicholas

The Secret for 2018

It seems like lately I’ve been busier than ever, and staying on top of it all without becoming stressed can be a daunting task.

Fortunately, there’s a secret to being organized and happy, and I want to share it with you as we go into 2018.

Click on the image to watch the video and let me know what you think – how do you manage everything in your life?

Have a great night this New Year’s Eve and an even greater 2018!

In gratitude, Nicholas

PS I’m starting my free online workshop soon and I would love to have you participate – plus it’s a great way to kick off the new year! To register, just go to

Improving Your Art the Easy Way

887_I have noticed an interesting thing about how I learn and improve my art. I used to think the more time I spent painting – meaning the actual, physical time I spent working hard – was in direct proportion to how much my work improved.

Over the years, working hard is just something I felt was my only option if I wanted to make my art really great. The harder I worked, I thought, the faster and better my art would become…Now, years later, I think that maybe I had it all wrong.

I began to understand when I was listening to the poet and philosopher David Whyte speaking in San Francisco a couple of years ago. He said something I didn’t completely understand at the time, but which I wrote it later so that I could.

He said, “…Visitation, absence, visitation, absence, visitation, absence, (he this repeated over and over again) is how we learn.”  In other words, the time between the periods of effort, the pauses are fundamentally as important as the periods of work. He believes that this “on, off and on again “ process produces more consistent, more substantial results. It is not how long we work but rather how often. I have now come to realize that this is also true for me.

I taught a 5-day workshop on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This is an amazing opportunity for people to spend an unbroken period of time just focusing on their art. The improvement is extraordinary. However, I also have taught a 6 week, 3 hours per week evening course in my studio. What I have seen, amazingly, was that these students – even though they were only working 3 hours a week – also have had similar remarkable improvement even though they were working half as much time as those in the workshop.

I now understand that even though they were not physically painting as much, they were, nonetheless, still thinking about principles they had learned. Examples of color, value, and composition all begin to creep into their everyday life and as a result their visual sensitivity increases. Miraculously they just improved every time they came to class.

So maybe we don’t need to work harder forever and ever, but instead just sometimes put the brushes in the can of turpentine and go away for the afternoon. In the name of improving my work, I now should go bird watching more often. Or collect driftwood or even play some bocce ball. Just mix it up.

Visitation, absence, visitation, absence. This is truly how we learn. I think this way of working is going to work out much better not just for my art but for my life as well.

What do you do to stay inspired with your work?

In gratitude, Nicholas

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