Here's a painting I was sent recently for a critique. It has a problem I see very frequently. In fact when I teach workshops about half of my students have it. The problem lies in establishing the "key" of the painting.
This painting has the middle values and the darkest darks. The clouds are a high value but nothing else is. What happened is this.
THE ARTIST HAS CONFUSED COLOR WITH VALUE.
He, she or it looked out on that field and saw that it was very green, to get that green they assumed they needed lots of green pigment and they loaded it into the note until it was a low value. They mistakenly assumed that a strong color was a dark color. Once they had done that, the painting was keyed really, really low. In order to paint the pine trees they had to drop them almost to black in order to get them to be enough darker than the grass.
Their lights are painted in a middle-low value and the darks are ink. If they were to do it again, I suggested they take a Munsell scale out when they paint ( that's one of those value charts that run 1 to 10 ) and set their lights at about 2 . Then they would have lots of room to place the lower values without having to go so dark.
I was taught to start a painting by "keying" it. I no longer do this, except instinctively, but I learned after getting a rough drawing or rub in, to find and place my darkest dark and my lightest lights. Often I would paint the sky first contrasted with something that came up against it. That established the value range in which the picture would be placed.
Value is more important than color, as it is a part of drawing., Color is a decoration you hang on your drawing. Since it is so important to get the value right.
I RECOMMEND THAT YOU GO FOR THE PROPER VALUE FIRST, EVEN IF IT IS AT THE EXPENSE OF YOUR COLOR. ONCE YOU HAVE THE PROPER VALUE YOU CAN "INJECT' THE COLOR.
If you are in California and would be interested in a potential workshop there in the early fall, please e-mail me and let me know. If I have a few takers I will schedule one.