I was browsing my portfolio the other day, when I got sucked in to the vortex of artsy laziness and decided to count up the paintings I've saved and sort of "quantify" my growth over the last 4 years. What amazed me isn't that I've improved (I would be sad if I felt I hadn't improved atleast some!), but how a marked increase in recent production has so obviously gone hand in hand with the development of my skills and vision. I remember reading some advice from more experienced painters that you need to paint! paint! paint! and that a novice painter just needs to get those 100 first paintings under his belt. Well, now that I'm here, on the other side of that 100, I can't agree more.
Over the first 3 years, I painted about 50 paintings, total. I took two semester-long watercolor classes back in 2011, and they helped me produce work and learn basic skills. I then did some abstract work on my own, bit by bit. Along the way, I joined the artist community at WetCanvas, I researched and learned about color theory, I did my two murals, I did some digital linework, and, ever so slowly, I kept painting watercolors. Still, all in all, that's only about 1.5 watercolor paintings a month. I could copy an image with glazes pretty well if I wanted to, but here's what I got when I tried to compose an image of my own last October-
Comparatively, I count that I've painted atleast 100 paintings in the last 9 months, which averages out to just about 3 paintings a week. Holy mole! That surprised me. My (crappy) math skills tell me that's a 750% increase. LOL. Here's a recent painting I did, after all that playtime-
Good teachers matter, and I've searched some out. Well written books or instructional videos matter, and I've read some. Good tools matter, and I bought them. I think they all very clearly have made learning easier. But nothing, in my opinion, takes the place of...well... the almost mechanical fact that you just. need. to. paint.... a lot. if you want to learn how to paint.
You can learn a lot from failing. In fact, you really HAVE to fail if you want to learn. So, I guess the goal is that I have many more failures, right? :D