Painting progress is never a linear movement forwards and I've recently decided to go back to an old technique, which I feel is a more sincere technique. Being colorblind, I structure my palette order in value, from light to dark, but my early technique also followed my 'disability'. I used to begin a painting in a tonal brunaille (tones of brown on white; as opposed to a grisaille which is black and white) which I did naturally. I know this is a technique known more commonly as dead coloring, but the point is that it's more conducive to natural state of being.
If you're interested in this technique, remember that the white tone is simply the canvas and you modulate the shade with only a burnt umber or other such brown. I'm going to go back to this and a modified palette which I used to use. I've changed other aspects of my technique, but they're so minor I need not write about them here.
My advice is to do some soul searching and find out what works for you.
I've been having some great realizations recently in regards to my path as an artist. I'm going to share them because it may be of interest to other artists who feel this internal struggle.
I'll start with a point of interest with many artists, color selection. Selecting a palette is no easy feat and takes many days to find what works for you. I'm back to my old palette, which is as follows:
-Chrome Yellow Light
-Chrome Yellow Deep
-Cad. Yellow Deep Hue
-Cad. Red Light
-Brun Rouge (Older color, Basically an earth red, similar to Pompeii Red)
-Van Dyke Brown
I've taken away all colors which I believe are not useful for me. Keep in mind that my palette is laid out in order of value because of my colorblindness. This is an ever evolving process which I'm sure will change in time. The only reason that I know that I like these colors, is that I've used them and tried out tons of colors.
I'm at the point where I want to make my own mark. The best work I've done, which I consider to be "The Butterfly" (2015), encapsulates much of what I am looking to accomplish. It's narrative and began with an idea. The idea followed a process which I have laid out in this post.
The point to all this is to explore what makes you happy in painting and drawing. Don't fall into a trap where you over analyze and never produce, which is what happens on many discussion forums. Too much information can sometimes be worse than too little. Find your own way to paint, but always continue learning.
I've written about self portraits before, and every time I paint one, it acts as a stepping stone to see how far I've come. I don't know exactly, but I think I've painted about 12-15 finished self portraits. I did a lot of them when I was in school because I didn't always have a model to pose.
Before my most recent one, the last self portrait I did was when I was a senior at Penn and I was 22 years old. It came out very well and I think it took me about 3 weeks to paint. I have it hanging above my bed and I look at it every day. It marks a very happy period in my life and I'll keep it forever. Every painting I do is very dear to me and makes me sentimental when I look back at them.
In the two years that are between these two self portraits, I've learned many things. The reason for my growth is because I've painted a lot of paintings. Some of them are pretty bad, but I've done a lot of commissions that I'm super proud of.
I'm starting to learn that the materials, technique, palette and everything are all secondary to the great poetic theme. Of course, I value technique immensely, but it will always be subservient to the theme. And the truth is that my technique is really simple and I use a fairly basic palette. A lot of my paintings may look very realistic, but they actually aren't. Aside from doing portraits, I don't like realism; even my most accurate portraits are idealized.
The other main thing that I've learned is how important tonal arrangements are in a painting. I sum it up in the follow order of importance: Line -> Value (tone) -> Color. It may be my colorblindness, but I place a great deal of importance on the value.
I keep learning every day, I paint almost every day and I'm still addicted to it after 10 years.
*See pictures below..