7 Ideas for what to Paint this Autumn

The start of a new season fills me with so much anticipation. Autumn is one of those over-the-top anticipations filled seasons for me.

Here are several ideas of what to paint this September. Some ideas to get your imagination spinning for what you might be thinking about.

Before we get into the ideas, let’s talk about the personality of autumn. It has more to do than just colors, although colors are the way the season is often expressed.

Leaning back in to the seasonal archetype model, the main characteristics of the autumn archetype are: bold, muted, warm.

The shapes of autumn are bolder than spring and summer. Gone are the flowing scripts and twirls of the past seasons as well. There are shapes and curves, but they are more angular and unique. The fonts are less Southern Lady and Coastal Living and more New York  Times and In Her Studio.

Consider the personality of the autumn seasonal archetype and allow this description to inspire and guide the feel of your art this season: earthy, moody, romantic, bohemian, strong, traditional, rustic, industrious, energetic.

Autumn is about industry and energy. In nature, the harvest is finishing. Nature gives off her big show before going to sleep in the winter, throwing out a bold display of wild, robust color.

We feel the energy too as we look forward to the final months of the year. We pull out our boots and scarves and plan outings with friends and trips to pick apples. Baking starts once again. School starts. There is a productive energy in the autumn. The days get shorter, increasing our efforts to finish up our work while the sun is out.

But it’s not all oranges and leaves and pumpkin spice lattes. Autumn colors include crimson, purple, cranberry, magenta, all the plums, the browns including cinnamon brown and hazelnut. Another side of autumn is deeply romantic and mysterious and moody.

We see so much of what I refer to as the traditional colors of autumn: yellows, oranges and browns. But don’t forget about the beautiful, moody, romantic autumn colors which include crimson, magenta, plum and cranberry.

Below is a stock photo I purchased years ago when I was looking for examples of romantic/moody autumn palette. I love the incredible variation of purple and plums in the fall. Don’t be afraid to use them in your creative work.

wedding cake

Letting this description of fall inspire your mood for creating.

Ideas for Autumn-Inspired Paintings


Painting trees is therapeutic, plain and simple.

I love that you can paint them all year around, changing them as the seasons go. I’ve started creating some late summer/early fall trees where the shades of the colors are changing, but we aren’t to full-on orange and red and crimson quite yet. I used a sap green and lots of warm browns in the painting instead of the cooler greens.

Autumn Quotes

Quotes are fun and fast. The goal is to keep the quote fairly short. It’s such a bummer to run out of room. I’ll sometimes sketch in the words to make sure I have enough space. The eraser marks may show up under the paint, so I recommend erasing them, at least so they are simply down to a light fade.

What quotes are you needing to refresh your mind, heart and soul this autumn season, to give you -or others- a lift?

Here are a few ideas:

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” -Unknown

“But my eyes are on you, O God, my Lord.” Psalm 141:8

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

“If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.” Paul Harvey

“Yesterday ended last night.” Unknown

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Mary Poppins

“Do the next thing.” Mrs. George A. Paull

“The most important thing about you is not the things you achieve, but the person you become.” Dallas Willard

“If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Dolly Parton

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

Another idea is to add quotes to paintings you’ve already created. These would make fun paper gifts in your snail mail this year.

And, a few of my quote projects so far.

Autumn Quote on Fall Watercolor

Create an Autumn Inspired Splatter Art Bouquet

Over the summer I created tons of lovely, light-hearted splatter art with mostly a spring and summer inspired color palette.

Try taking an autumn approach. Create a floral bouquet with autumn colors. Here are some ideas for colors swaps:

Remove permanent green and replace it with Sap Green, a muted dark green perfect for autumn. Add in a bit of hooker’s green if it feels too warm.

Replace pinks with alizarin crimson, permanent red or

Create a face and hair with beautiful, moody colors

Faces, hair, necks and shoulders have an infinite amount of variety. If portraits are new to you, don’t be afraid to grab a family member’s picture, a magazine or a picture on social media for inspiration.

Instead of copying the subjects coloring, create a fall-inspired look with eyes, hair, skin tones and other embellishments. Remember warm and bold, so don’t be afraid to add in some intensity.

According to Angela Wright, author of Color Psychology, thick and curly hair is often the sign of an autumn personality. So don’t be afraid to loosen up with a curly, loose hair style or let the curly tendrils fly if the subject has their hair pulled up. The hair style chosen will add autumn movement and energy to the piece.

Pumpkins with a Twist

Traditional orange pumpkins are fun each year, but have you tried painting different colored pumpkins. Painting pink pumpkins in the 2019 Autumn Collection challenged me to create a fall-esque feel painting with a different color scheme. I worked to keep an autumn vibe, pulling in plum and warm pinks and peaches.

Orange and plum are a nice color combination so another option might be to paint orange pumpkins with long stems and then swirl fun, pink and purple ribbons around the long stems.

Eggplant purple is a marvelous autumn color, warm and rich. It resonates with the feeling of harvest, bounty, wealth of a good harvest and rich times with people. Purple shows off oranges hue, balancing out some of the brightness. Don’t be afraid to add in bold strokes of purple into your palette this autumn.

pink pumpkins watercolor

The above painting is a watercolor. Watercolors are fun and fast, but once you start painting, it’s a good idea to finish up the inital painting in order to get the gorgeous blend of colors.

If you like to work with acrylic paint, it may take longer, but you can keep coming back and adding layers. There isn’t the pressure to get a single painting done in one time. Plus, if something occurs that wasn’t what was wanted, another layer can be added, erasing the unwanted color! Below is a piece from the 2018 Pink Pumpkin collection. It was an experiment to create an autumn line with the non-traditional autumn colors: plums, browns, dark pinks, creams.  (the model in the picture is my lovely sister!).

Create Your Autumn Retreat Home

Sometimes what we imagine and think about can heavily influence our mind. So we can’t go to the autumn retreat. Maybe the weekends are full or the finances are tight or whatnot. I completely get that. But I’ve gone many, many places in my imagination.

My grandfather told me half the fun of a big trip is the planning. As a full time artist, he made several trips to Europe to gather pictures and sketches for his work. I remember those words as I plan my own trips.

Spend an evening creating an autumn retreat. What is your ideal retreat? Is it a cozy cabin tucked away in an apple field? Or a rustic barn turned into a bed and breakfast? Perhaps your ideal autumn getaway is meandering through a pumpkin patch and sipping hot apple cider. Sometimes I’ll start with an idea, but colors and paints have a different idea. Enjoy the vacation your mind takes as you create this autumn retreat.

Autumn Home Watercolor

Paint What you Want but Choose a Different Color Palette

One of the reasons I love the seasonal archetypes is because they help me mix up my palette. There are a core group of colors I’m normally drawn too.

With creative play, even in a medium we love, it is essential to change something up to avoid fatigue, burnout or feeling bored with your work.

Sometimes we think we’re bored with the hobby, but what we really need is something to breathe life in to it again.

If changing the subject matter of your creative play feels too heavy or would require too much work, try changing the color palette instead.

For example, I spent all summer this year creating fun and free splatter art paintings. But when fall came, while I wasn’t ready to give up the splatter art, I was getting a bit weary of the florals. Some of them were looking rather similar to the others.

Instead of changing the subject matter (flowers, mostly the wildflower variety), I decided to do a few with a moody, autumn palette.

Changing the colors made a huge different. It added quite a bit of inspiration to keep going and even veer into a bit of a different subject matter path.

Bonus: I’m also even more in the mood for fall!