When you come upon a subject that wants to be painted, there is work to do before you begin putting brush to paper. It’s a good idea to be really clear about what you want to see in the finished painting. What is it about the scene that speaks to you?
Once the colors are being mixed and the washes and strokes are going down, it is all too easy to lose sight of what brought you to the scene in the first place. Say it out loud! Maybe even write it down. With the message clear in your mind, you can make choices about palette, value range, edge quality and composition that support and enhance what you want to say.
I strongly recommend making a simple study before beginning a proper painting. Which sort of study depends on what looks tricky. If the relative values are hard to discern, try a monochrome value study. If you are uncertain about how many hard edges would support your purpose, make a study with only soft edges. Where the hard edges need to be will be clear.
For homework, find a scene or an image that you would like to paint, and be sure to identify what you want to see in the finished painting. Next, make a study that will help you resolve what looks tricky. Ready? OK, paint.
Bring everything in to class.