I've only been painting a short period of time, but I've got some tips and tricks for anyone who might want to hear. I figured while I'm home today with a sick child who is now resting, I might jot these down.
Tip #1: If you want to paint, then paint! I know it sounds silly to have to say it, but it's much like Virginia Woolf said: "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." The same is true of painting. If you want to accomplish something, then first move to the place where you would do it, and then do it.
Tip #2: Embrace fear. I feel inadequate to work with quality on every painting that I begin. It's true. But I ignore it and dive in anyway.
Tip #3: Embrace "failure." I'm okay with failure. Neither success nor failure define a person, but the effort. And my past success is no indication of my future result. In fact, success can heighten my expectations and intimdate me from trying. To hell with that.
Tip #4: Paint exactly what you see. Painting itself is not a matter of dexterity. It's 50% a matter of seeing things truly. (The other 50% I'll get to in a moment.) But it rests in the ability to see things as they really are. That apple might be red in parts, but it is a wide array of colors in the spectrum if you really look at it as it truly is.
Tip #5: Learn colors. Mix colors. Take every color in your palette and mix each with the others and learn the combinations of them. Learn which ones are weak and semi-transparent and which ones are strong and opaque. Color is such a powerful tool in an artist's hands. This is the other 50%. Whatever else follows is style, I think.
Tip #6: No black. I left black out of my color palette a long time ago, and I'm much better for it. If I need "black," I mix deep browns (blue-orange, purple-yellow, red-green) or I mix blue and green and red together. Or I use a strong purple. But each of these have a warmth to them, and frankly, "black" just isn't in the world. It's flat and lifeless. Seriously. Look around. It's hard to find.
Tip #7: Limit your palette. Paint harmonizes better with fewer colors. I generally start a painting by choosing the 4, or at most 5, colors I plan to use. White is always present, but I try to use it sparingly. It pulls the life from a color when mixed.
Tip #8: Learn composition. The more the eye darts around the painting, the more interesting it is. If something is front and center, like a portrait, there's no discovery or movement.
Tip #9: Less is more. If the brain has to work a bit to assemble the painting and fill in the blanks, the more drawn people are to it, in my opinion. I'm not talking Jackson Pollack in terms of making the brain work, but an exact replica of life doesn't require any imagination or bend us in any way. Like people, a painting becomes more interesting when it's not "perfect."
Tip #10: Mix up your subject matter. Try new things. Paint trees, people, animals, houses, nature... enjoy the challenge of new subject matter.
Tip #11 Get rid of the yellow lights. Look at the difference between a true artist's white light and the light bulbs you buy at the store. I don't care how "white" the store bulbs purport to be - they're not white. True, white bulbs are expensive, but oh so worth the cost.