This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – April 2009.
I have attended a number of art classes and I also like to paint with my daughters. I always find interesting seeing how people react when trying out a new medium.
A trend beginners have to fight against is their willingness to achieve a given effect straight away; to have the perfect representation immediately.
This attitude can lead to two different reactions. The first one is to feel dissatisfied by the appearance of a painting at an early stage, which will have a negative effect or at least give the artist some anxiety (“I will never get this right!"). In this case, it is great to have someone at your side who just gently leads you along the way (“It’s coming well, just carry on and you will see…”). The second reaction is to concentrate on a small portion of the work and push it to a finish state. I know some artists like to work this way, but I feel that you achieve better results by working around the whole painting. A painting is a whole and not a collection of small vignettes. Furthermore, you can only bring your subject to life by playing with contrasts, including sharp details contrasted with soft areas.
The benefit of experience is, beside technique, an ability to foresee what the painting is going to look like when finished. More precisely, the knowledge that each stage, each layer, participates to the final effect you are building-up to.
You become like a chess player who anticipates where the game is heading. The reality is that the painting will never be exactly what you anticipate it to be. But it saves you from throwing the towel too soon. It gives you enough confidence to build the painting over time, because you know where you want to go; you have the map and you can see, from the top of your hill, your final destination.
Practice gives you the confidence to paint the journey ahead.