There are at least three essentials for becoming a good painter-
1. Get quality instruction from the beginning and continue to do so throughout your painting life.
2. Paint often, not allowing failed paintings to keep you from doing so.
3. READ! Discover books that you can understand and, hopefully, enjoy reading so you will re-read them as you progress. You will find that there were many lessons you did not absorb initially simply because you were not ready.
Below are 4 books that have profoundly influenced my painting experience. I read them early on and many times since. I have left out some earlier classics and I will get to those in another post, but at least for me these books were more accessible and enjoyable for a beginner looking for inspiration as well as information. I will list them in the order I would recommend you read them if you have not already.
Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner by Steve Allrich.
This is a short book with many wonderful color photos of the artist's work. It can be read in one session. It touches on all the major aspects of painting, from materials to making painting a career. It includes fine examples of still life, interiors and landscape and has a very concise discussion about plein air painting.
Landscape Painting Inside and Out by Kevin Macpherson. Obviously meant for the landscape painter, this book is full of beautiful compositions and many demonstrations that allow one to see how the artist develops his paintings. He addresses studio painting as well as plein air. (I could just have easily listed Fill Your Oil Paintings with Color and Light by the artist which includes some figurative and still life work.)
Oil Painting, the Workshop Experience by Ted Goerschner. Same as the above examples, specifically from a workshop point of view. I like the "paint on" critiques included here and his chapter about a difficult day of plein air painting.
Alla Prima, Everything I Know About Painting by Richard Schmid. I would not choose this for my first book to read, but do read it as soon as you have a few other books under your belt and have started painting with some regularity. The copyright on this book is 1999 but it became an "instant classic" and has inspired many wonderful contemporary painters. The artist really does tell all he knows in a very generous way. The writing is excellent. Don't let it overwhelm you. I like to read this one cover to cover once a year or so (I might be a year behind!) and each time find things I didn't appreciate before. Many beautiful color photos complete the experience of reading this gem.
I like to read art books at bedtime. Each chapter can stand alone, a plus for those of us with shorter attention spans that time of day. And, art books make pleasant dreams.