1 - PLAN:
Most people think that creativity is something that you either have or don't have, and by expressing it through an artwork you are unleashing this inner genius/force inside you...but yet this is available only to a few special people. No, that is not true, everybody is potentially a great artist, but you need to nurture you creativity, work hard at it and practice in order to produce great art...even if it comes easier to you and you feel you have a talent for it.
Even those people we label as "geniuses" such as Leonardo Da Vinci for example, had to work hard at their art, plan, and constantly work at it. There are no other ways around it, no quick solutions. And yes, you can learn art, you can learn to draw as well as to paint.
Having said this, I am not denying that there may be people for whom this happens easier, and have good colour sensibility for example - they seem to instinctively know what goes together and what doesn't - and are prone to come up with ideas and processes to make great artworks. However, often, the reason why they find it easier, may be that these sensibilities were encouraged during their upbringing, for example, their parents where artists themselves, their teachers dedicated more time to such activities, they were influence by friends and so on...so obviously, such a person would find herself more at ease with creative and artistic subjects than someone who on the other hand had no exposure at all to such a field.
So, in order to produce great art, you need to be willing to work at it and then PLAN.
When I say plan, I am thinking mainly about composition and colour combination - although there may be other things you'll need to take into consideration.
Composition is how you arrange the space and elements in your painting. Ideally you want to create something that feels pleasing and harmonious to look at - although in some instances your intentions may be also different, perhaps, you want to shock or produce something that does not give a peaceful feel instead, and that's fine too.
When thinking about composition you need to consider the space on which you need to work, the individual elements in your pictures and how these relate to each other as well as to the whole piece - including the background.
If your intention is to give a sense of stability and harmony you may choose vertical and horizontals elements, if you instead want to depict movement, you may opt for curves and diagonal features. To get a balanced piece mix both.
Colour combination instead is how you arrange colour and different hues to achieve different outcomes. For strong contrasts and visual impact go for complementary pairs such as green and red, yellow and purple, or orange and blue.
For a more relaxing and peaceful feel go for colours that are near to each other on the colour wheel and that have a pastel-like feel.
2 - LEARN AND MOVE ON:
In order to reproduce objects, people and sceneries realistically, you need to learn to see what is there in front of you, not in your head or in your imagination. For example, when you want to copy a plate which is positioned on a table at a few meters distance, although in your head you know that the plate is a perfect circle, when viewed in perspective it will not look circular, but it will instead look elliptical, and that is what you have to copy: an ellipse exactly as see it in your perspectival field of vision, not what your reason tells you should see.
But once you have mastered your drawing skills, as well as learned from other people’s work, move on! It is normal to begin by looking at what other artists have done in the past as well as the present, I recommend this, no one works in isolation, we are all relational beings and need constantly each other’s feedback and input. That is how we learn. However, you should also honor your individuality and once you have gained the necessary tools, use them to express your ideas in a unique way.
3 - EXPERIMENT AND RISK:
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, experiment with different mediums, supports, tools: EXPERIMENT,EXPERIMENT,EXPERIMENT! Even if what comes out looks obnoxious keep experimenting…it is real fun and sooner than later you’ll find that thing, colour, technique or style that speak to you and makes your art yours. If you don’t RISK you will never come up with something "original". Mix mediums, try different colour combinations, even if the books tell you it cannot be done. The best way to learn something is to try it out and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, oh well, at least you have giving it a go, if it does, great! You have just learned something new!
A good artist, in fact, is not just someone that can copy and follow all the rules, instead, she is someone who knows the processes but is not afraid of using her own instinct/judgment and imagination to experiment, and create something that is unique and socially meaningful.