Use these guidelines when you are learning how to paint. After you are comfortable with painting, you can bend the rules.
1. Paint the background things like the sky, distant hills or water.
2. Come forward in the painting and paint the middle ground items. They are closer than the sky or distant hills, so they overlap the background.
3. The water needs to be painted before the buildings, boat or bushes because they all come up out of the water.
4. Next the buildings are painted. Note how they overlap the background foliage of number 2.
5. The boat and its reflection is painted on and into the water.
6. Paint the foreground foliage on the sides of the painting. They overlap the water.
7. Lastly paint the details and make any corrections. For example, the base of the grasses would be in shadow. So you may want to darken the base of the grasses.
The rule of painting from back to front is a good way to start painting landscapes.
This is my preferred method of painting a close-up subject. If the subject is painted first, then I have a better idea of how to use values and color contrast to highlight the subject.
Many artist do it the other way around. And, sometimes I do paint the background first and the subject second.
Either way is correct. It is just a matter of personal preference.
The first layers you paint may be mixed with medium or thinners like mineral spirits or turpentine. This makes the paint lean, thinner.
The top layers of the painting are painted with little or no medium or thinner. Oil paint contains linseed or other oils, that's the fat.
However, it is difficult to paint a dark color over a light color. Especially, if the color has been mixed with white.
It is difficult, but not impossible. You may let the light color set up awhile, then paint the dark color on with a very, very soft touch.
The light colors are painted first, let them dry.
Then paint another layer on top of the first layer. You may use dark colors or other colors added over the top of the light colors.
This a traditional way of painting watercolors is called glazing.
It took a second layer of paint the get the butterfly wing tip dark enough.
Use less water to make your colors darker and/or more vibrant.
The light flower colors were painted first.
While the colors are still damp, add darker or different colors. Then the colors will softly blend together.
The more you paint, the better you will be. And the more you will enjoy it.
How long did it take me to learn how to paint a painting? Actually it has taken me a lifetime and I am still learning.
It is a privilege and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with you.
You can learn to paint anything from flowers to butterflies and giraffes to ocean with the how-to step by step tutorials.