Paint more - progress faster
My first job at the age of 15 was in a pottery store/school in which I learnt everything about clay, glazes, loading and firing kilns and eventually I learned how to produce pottery on the wheel myself. Looking back, the greatest thing I learned was that nothing happens without practice. During the day I popped my head into the various pottery classes and saw students struggle with the very basics of wheel-thrown work and that was centring the clay ball on the wheel head. Without this, the pot never worked and some students didn't get it even after the 10 week course - the clay always seemed to be in charge! In a way it was comical to watch, but the simplicity of the problem was this; the students only did this once a week at the class and didn't or couldn't practice at home.
Painting is exactly the same. Being able to paint is not some magical capacity that just a few possess, it is a skill that can be learned. No normal person is born with the ability to draw and paint well and every painter of any standing started off by doing some pretty ordinary work - believe me!
Once-a-week painting may be relaxing and even social if done with others, but there is little chance of improvement if that is what we are after.
There are two aspects to progress. One is learning from others from workshops, classes, books, videos and demos. The other is putting all this stuff into practice and that must be done in our own time and as often as we can manage it. In reality, there is no such thing as a self-taught artist because we all learn from something, either formal teaching or what we have learned from others along the way. Self-taught or formally taught, there is no progress to be had if we don't practice.
Okay, now here's the thing. There are no short-cuts in learning to paint, but there is better use of brush hours that will have us improving quicker than just plodding along - and the plan is this.
We are going to paint a beachscape and we have a choice. We can do a medium to large piece that may take us 10 hours to complete. Alternatively, we can do 10, one-hour small paintings of similar scenes. If we choose the small paintings, then we will do 10 more than just doing one in the same time. That means we will have 10-times more experience at doing the sky, 10-times more experience at doing waves, 10 times more experience at mixing those colours and importantly, 10 times the confidence you would have had if you had just done the one painting in 10 hours. Yes, it makes sense and it works. Repetition is a key to any skill and once confidence and an amount of skill is obtained, then the world is your oyster!
The other important aspect of learning like this though, is to regard your 10 small works as practice pieces and don't put pressure on yourself thinking that they all must be perfect. It's painting, not photography and any striving for perfection will set you up for failure. Often taking the pressure off in this way will produce some good works.
Get all those small-works brush hours under your belt and watch yourself grow as an artist.
Beach Path - 30x30cm Oil on Board