This was a question I have been asked a few times, especially when a learner wants to be able to paint something specific like hair for example. Learners can get very hung up about techniques and how to learn them. Techniques need to be thought of as ways to apply or remove paint to create a visual effect, that is all they really are. Some techniques are extremely simple although at first glance you may not be able to tell how the painter achieved the effect. Some techniques are more complex and require more of a knowledge of materials.
One of the most common mistakes beginner learners make when they start drawing and painting is forgetting about the background. I see a lot of ‘floating’ jars of flowers, pots, vases and figures in the beginner classes. The background should not be forgotten. I will explain why:
Part of the Story
The background puts the subject in context and can ‘tell the story’ of what is happening. For example if a figure is sitting on a sofa we know why their posture is a certain way, it would be different if they were sat on an upright chair for example.
There is useful tonal information in the background which can help bring depth and tonal value to the subject. Shadows are important for telling the observer that the subject is three dimensional and will tell us more about the lighting conditions.