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In our endeavour for recognition with our paintings, there's no doubt that practise (and lots of it!) makes perfect. Make no mistake, there's no short cut in the pursuit of excellence and it's no coincidence that the most talented amongst us are the very same who practised the most. Hark work will bring its just rewards, but to give yourself the best possible opportunity you need to avoid some common pitfalls. Here are 5 of the easiest ways in which you can ruin your painting.
1. Lack of Tonal Difference. I would go as far as to say the varying tones in your painting are more important than the colours. Counter change (light against dark) provides contrast in your work and is most important when viewing the final composition. Photograph your work and get it in a photo editor. Change the colour to black and white and see how it affects the image. Are the main shapes in your paintings clearly defined? If not then your tonal values are wrong.
2. Using Too Many Colours. As a novice it's understandable your first instinct is to hit every colour on your palette and really go to town. But you'll be amazed at what you can do using as few as 2 colours. The fewer colours you use the more harmonious the colours in your painting. Try various mixes of just 2 or 3 colours and see what you can achieve. You'll be pleasantly surprised!
3. Trying to Paint Every Detail. Personally I like to paint fast and loose. I couldn't paint every detail if I tried. I look for techniques that offer the most effect for the least effort. Whether you're painting from real life or using a reference photo, remember that you're just trying to create an impression of what you see. Allow your own personality to make its stamp on your work.
4. Poor Composition. There are exceptions to every rule, but one that will generally see you in good stead is the 'Rule of Thirds'. Imagine your canvas or paper divided into 3 equal parts both vertically and horizontally. Where the lines cross is where you should place your main subject or focal point. Always avoid the centre, your painting will not look right and the viewer's eye will have nowhere to go.
5. Not Knowing When to Stop. This is probably the most frustrating error of all. How many times have you produced something to be proud of only to ruin it at the end simply by fiddling? The temptation to fiddle often proves too much for most of us, so when should we stop? Personally, once I reach a point where all the main elements are in the painting and all that's left is to touch up parts that you've already done then it's time to stop. I sign the painting and that's it! Once it's signed there's no going back!
Ultimately your success is down to you. The more you practice the more your skills will develop and the prouder you will be of your work. With practise comes experience and the promise of bigger and better things. Best of luck and happy painting!