I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown. This will not be a career for me. This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.
You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this. Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.
The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.” But after that it gets confusing. Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace your reference sketch/photo. You get the picture.
Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken. Notice I say, “come from”. I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not. And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before. Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings. But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion. That has niggled in my heart for months now. There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one. And I have a problem with it.
Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story. Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it. Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation. And that is OK.
So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.
If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow. And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time. Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.