Painting is like dieting. There are as many ways to paint as there are diets. What works for one person may not work for another. A person’s personality, likes and dislikes, background, schedule, family, and opportunities make a difference to the success of the diet. And so it is with painting, there is no one way to paint.
New painters are often confused with techniques and rules that may be conflicting or cumbersome, such as ‘never use black, black is a dead color’, ‘real artists don’t use black’, ‘mix your greens’, ‘always begin with an underpainting’, etc. Whether you use black or green depends on the type of painting you do. Ad Reinhardt made a career from his black paintings, as did Franz Kline. JMW Turner, Vermeer, Zorn, Renoir, Winslow Homer, all used black in their palette. Real artists learn to use black.
I recently read a list of painting ideals; one of them really struck a chord with me, ‘Your style is what you’re doing academically wrong.’ Make mistakes and learn from them; what you may learn from your mistakes, may be what the naysayers have not yet learned from their mistakes.
Watercolor blooms, watermarks, used to be considered mistakes. Recent watercolor artists have learned to use the bloom to great effect, such as Antonio Masi; a gentle spritz from your water bottle applied to a fresh background wash creates a nice underlying texture.
Rules have their place in learning to paint, but don’t overlook the possibilities of breaking the rules. We have much to be grateful for in making mistakes, after all Champagne was a mistake.