People often ask me how I learned to paint. Some assume I went to art school and got a BFA– which I didn’t. I wasn’t born with a paint brush in my hand. In fact, I didn’t start painting until I was 44. So what was my strategy?
First, decide to learn from others. I enrolled at the local art school called Loudoun Academy of the Arts (now defunct). Sure, I could paint on my own and perhaps discover the principles of painting, but how much faster could I progress if the principles were explained to me? In addition to taking weekly classes, I read tons of instructional art books. My favorite was, and still is, called Oil Painting: The Workshop Experience by Ted Goerschner.
Second, resolve to paint every day. Whenever I asked an accomplished artist how long they had been painting, they would typically respond, “20 years.” Twenty years — oh my! Who has that kind of time? But then I wondered, how often did they paint during those 20 years? Maybe the first 12 years they were just taking a weekly class? How quickly could one accumulate the same experience as painting 3 hours once a week for 12 years? If one paints 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, it yields an equivalent amount of time behind a brush in just over 62 weeks or 1.25 years.
Third, be fearless. Take risks with your paintings. You will maximize learning. For example, there were times when I had a “good” painting, but it wasn’t “awesome.” The dilemma was, should I keep painting on it and run the risk of ruining it, just for the chance of improving it? I decided to keep going. I asked myself, “What kind of painter do I want to be, good or awesome?”
Get out of your comfort zone. After a while, you will become proficient at a certain type of painting. The temptation will be to stick with that. While a successful painting is gratifying, remember to stretch yourself. If you’re proficient at still life, try a portrait. If you can knock out a landscape, try a city scene. If you specialize in sunny days, try a nocturne. Learning is what makes painting fun and is why you can do it for a lifetime.
Good Luck in Your Painting Journey!