1. Learn how to make brown
2. Learn how to paint water (or faces or trees or anything)
3. Complete a painting in a set amount of time
4. Paint like Monet (or whoever)
5. Paint loosely and with emotion
6. Impress my friends with my talent
7. Make money by selling paintings
8. Win contests or become famous
This is the wrong checklist for becoming a good painter. These ideas all keep you from progressing and becoming adept at the medium. It is what most people come in with as a checklist, even if not completely consciously, because of the misconceptions in the general public about what art is and what it is for. There is a lack of understanding about art because of so little education people receive, at least in most of the US culture, and because the current culture keeps reinforcing the wrong concepts.
While it is true that there are basic things to learn, this is not the way to phrase them. The real job of becoming at artist is improving our ability to observe the world in greater detail and with greater understanding. Otherwise why to we keep accepting an endless series of paintings of the same things over and over: portraits, landscapes, and still lives of fruit? Hasn’t it all been done before? NO. It has not been done by this particular individual before, and the key is the fact that no one on earth before or since will ever see a sunset (which also changes) or sunflower the same way ever again. We have to capture that as a painter, and help the world to see things in a new way, a way they have never seen it before.
SO the process is about breaking down the external world into painter’s terms and learning to discern these things around us: the exact color of a leaf and how it changes from one color to another across its surface, or the intensity of contrast between a cloud and a nearby mountain range. Then, after learning the mechanics of the materials, the endless journey of capturing these visuals begins.
Here is a better checklist for a new painter:
- Notice how many different colors of brown occur in one room: or even one surface like a table.
- Try to find as many different colors and shapes in a body of water that you can, then notice in masterpieces how other artists depict it.
- Figure out all the things that need to happen to make a painting and make a realistic assessment of the time involved, allowing as much time as possible for each stage since the goal is not efficiency but complexity and beauty.
- Study not only Monet’s methods, but the lives of artists to see what they concentrate on.
- Impress fellow artist with your hard work and achievement. Your non-painting friends will be impressed with your most elementary efforts since they can’t do it at all. And they might not even like you for it.
- Learn to paint accurately and with exquisite detail: the looseness comes with practice.
- Make money doing something else to pay for the time to paint. 90 percent of accomplished artists do not make enough money to live on even barely.
- Fame and glory is not what it seems. Those who get it often lose the joy of painting, being in the public eye and plagued by expectations. Seek the glory of making art only.