Mastery of drawing and painting is achieved by daily effort over a long period of time, likely 10 to 20 years. One does not necessarily need a live mentor but one must have structure at some point. Short of attending a classical atelier, the right materials and a superhuman work ethic will take you where you want to go.
The desire has to burn so deeply that one will dismiss all other distractions other than those that support the Path. One's focus must be very narrow and pointed, while including a vast and varied array of important study materials covering many art subjects.
One must first learn basic skills: composition (how shapes relate to one another), value relationships (the darkness or lightness of tones), linear perspective, atmospheric (or aerial) perspective, and volume. There is so much good information online that one is not required to purchase instructional materials in the beginning of the journey.
Sadly, if one pursues an art degree in many universities today, they may not learn the basic skills needed to become a successful or highly-skilled artist. Mastery doesn't happen at the doctorate level either. Often, the attitude is, "do what you want." If a dentist or lawyer took that attitude, he or she would not be very successful.
I've been painting for a long time, jumping from one subject to another, painting in different styles. Save for teaching myself the basics, I've meandered quite a bit. I wish I had had a mentor 30 years ago.
|My copy of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer|
I now know where I want to go and I have the structure to get there. In my heart, I was aware of what I really wanted. And I knew it would be a solo path. If I win the lottery, I won't hesitate to move to Florence, Italy and study 10 years in an atelier however.