For the next months I was constantly learning and painting and also decided to enter some contests at deviantART, which are very fun. No matter how good or bad your skill level is, I can recommend to everyone to enter in contests. It´s not necessarily about winning, but more about learning. You have your deadline to enter your work and a theme not chosen by yourself. To me they are like homework assignments and great to keep you motivated when studying by yourself. The different themes also kind of force you to paint things you are not familiar with.
My first contest entry had a vehicle theme and I had never even really thought about painting vehicles. So I was "forced" to think about how to solve that problem. This was the result:
Some people also started to ask me about commissions and I even was invited to contribute some of my work to an artbook, which can be found here.
My confidence level started to rise and that led me to lesson nr. 3:
Confidence is your ally!
This might sound stale and blunt, but there really is a connection to quality work and confidence. If you´re confident, your work will be better. With better work, your confidence rises. The problem with confidence is, it can be shattered easily, if you don´t take care, which might result in demotivation and bad work.
Sometimes I produce stuff I am really not happy about. If that happens, I just get rid of it. Don´t try to fix a mostly complete painting you are not happy with! You´ll learn something, even from bad paintings, but there is no reason to but in extra effort and time to fix something that will most likely be mediocre at best.
But don´t give up too soon on a painting either! When I start painting, I´m mostly never pleased with what I produce up until I spend about an hour or so on it. It took me a while to find out that paintings need to grow from a general blob of colors to the detailed nice look you want to reach. At least for me, they never really feel right at the beginning. But you have to have patience and believe in your abilities.
Here´s an example of what I mean:
This is a WIP file for a recent Halloween painting. It shows the various stages of the painting. Stage 1 is almost always the stage I have to overcome to be satisfied with the image. As I learned, it is also one of the most vital steps of a painting, as it determines color, composition and overall mood right at the beginning. Once I´m at least quite happy with this step, then I can proceed.