I’ve wanted to be a painter since I was quite young. If it’s true that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, I’m still an enthusiastic amateur at art. (By comparison, I’ve got almost 30,000 hours into my website development career–but people pay me to do that for a living, so it’s easier to find time for it).

Even though I don’t get to put in as much time as I’d like to, necessarily, I can see how my own technique has improved over the years.

Case in point…my early efforts to be a painter:

These two pieces are attempts at painting a “hermit’s lamp” scene, separated by about ten years. The one on the right is still in progress, and is on my easel right now. I did the one on the left about eight to ten years ago.

Hermit's Lamp: 10 years of my efforts to be a painter

I can see a quality difference, and I’m interested to see what another ten years of trial and error brings.

The main things I’ve learned are:

  • get good reference material,
  • study the material closely
  • be prepared to put in a lot of time.
  • Also, never get lazy about observing the reference material, because as soon as you get sloppy and start imagining the shapes of light and shadow, rather than actually seeing what the real image looks like, that section is going to start looking cartoonish.

Also, it’s a really good idea to push yourself. While working on this painting, I bought skinnier brushes than I’ve ever had, and used them to painstakingly work on his beard, and the tree branches. It’s my first time aiming for serious realism with the trees (not photorealism, which is a whole other can of worms), and I’m also hoping for the ground and the rose to come out looking like I put some major effort into them.

Tip: if you like to paint flowers, go to Michael’s and pick up some of their very realistic artificial ones. Being to control the light source, pose the flowers, and change the arrangements is really helpful.