Sergei Bongart is one of the very talented and famous artists. A Russian/American painter 1918-1985.
Communicating on his successful technique, he wrote:
You have to put the right spot of color in the right place! And, the best exercise for training the eye was to exaggerate or overstate the color and then work from there, always comparing the relationships of one color to another, one value to another;how light or dark, how warm or how cool.
Sergei emphasized: More contrast. More contrast. To create, you must think: cool, warm, related co-lor, reflected co-lor, dark, light, thick, thin, dissimilar spaces, opposite contrasting movements—like in music, fast, slow, soft, loud; but all must relate to create symphony both on canvas or in music hall. Every painting needs active and quiet areas and feeling of poetry and drama. If painting gray day, make it gray. Use gray and silver. If painting sunny day, use oranges, red, yellows, greens—make it happy. Every element of painting must tie together, must have unity, must express mood.
Before you begin, ask yourself what should be seen first within your painting, and what you want to say about it. Areas of greatest contrast will attract the most attention. This is your first reading. A strong composition usually facilitates three good readings.
Understand the basis of composing a picture in color. No color should be viewed in isolation, but rather in constant relation to what is around it. A color is what it appears to be only because of its relationship to the surrounding colors. Nothing exists in isolation. Each previous color choice must be re-evaluated as a new color is placed along side of it. If you change one color, you have in effect changed them all.
When we paint, we really aren't copying the colors of nature, we are painting the color relationships. We don't have the color palette that nature has, so we must give the illusion of truth through the relationships of the colors we choose.
As in chess, try to think several moves ahead, painting the color relationships that are deemed integral to the picture. Always make the next most important move. Don't paint in nose highlights, for instance, before you have established the background colors.
It is vital at the start of a painting to cover the white of the canvas with chosen silhouettes of color. Do this as soon as possible. A white canvas masks the truth of the color relationships. Toning the canvas can help eliminate the glare of white, but does nothing to establish the true harmonies between each color.
Work around the canvas two or three times or more before moving to any detail. It is entirely possible, and often advisable, to spend 90% of your time merely adjusting the big, simple shapes before ever moving to the rendering. Once this is satisfactory, the chosen style or technique can be completed with confidence, up to and including ultra-tight realism.