I spent a few days last week planning a new painting so that on Monday I could start using paint. I had it all worked out for a 24-inch-square canvas. On Monday morning, I was excited to get into the studio after running school carpool. I reviewed my sketches, stared at everything one more time, aaaaand decided the canvas size was wrong for the composition. It was important for me to start painting early in the week because spouse was soon going to leave for five days and then I’d be on 100% mothering duty. I called an audible and started looking for a new scene for my primed canvas.
Last month I spent a full week organizing all the documents and photographs on my laptop. The goal was to edit and organize all the art reference photos I’ve taken over many years. Did it. That may be the first time I’ve started and completed a task before I needed to do it. I found a new reference photo quickly. This explains how surprised and happy I was to go through my new, very granular, filing system.
Bright New Day
I usually paint with the same two or three brushes, all of them filbert shaped in different small-medium sizes. Filbert is kind of a combination of flat and round brushes. I had recently organized my brushes, too, and I decided to bring in some other teammates for my audible play. With big areas of sky and sand to paint, I used a couple of large brights. These brushes are flat in shape but with shorter, stiffer bristles than a regular flat brush. They were great for creating the chiseled volume of the clouds, and their size allowed me to cover canvas quickly.
I liked painting this so much that I really had to tell myself to put down the brush and walk away. While I am at a good stopping point for the days ahead in job shift, it’s tough to hit the brakes when you’re gassed up and ready to go.
One of the happy consequences of my artwork from the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge is 30 small pictures to consider as studies for larger work. I like to start with the worst ones.
There was obviously something about the subject that inspired me, and while I didn’t nail it the first time, I want to keep trying until I get it right or until it’s not inspiring anymore. Last weekend I gave myself a challenge: To repaint the least popular (per Instagram likes) painting from the bunch of 30—No. 3. It started as a snapshot taken by my mom. The photo is great on its own—which normally I’d steer clear of—but mom was like, “Paint it!”
It’s one of those images that looks a bit abstract because of its simplicity: few lines, few colors. But just like the most difficult time to drive is at dusk, the difficult time of day to paint is also dusk because it flattens everything. There’s little contrast between light and dark; everything is soaked in a mono-tonal blue-gray light. For drivers, this means you can't see very well. For painters, this means you can't get interest and depth from easy sources of light and shadow. A strong light source is a lay-up for painters. Without it, you've got to really know how to play ball.
I like the first painting, a watercolor. It has the simplicity of design I was aiming for, but maybe I could give it a little more character. Here’s what I did (pictured below).
A common question from an art viewer is “How long did it take you to paint that?” The answer can be hard to calculate. I think house painters say their job is 90% preparation and 10% execution. I tried to get up that ratio with my newest painting because it was a new direction and I wanted to give myself every advantage to get it right and enjoy doing it. Here is a breakdown of the hours to make this picture:
For some things, countable minutes are minimal yet need to happen over an extended period. As my friend fellow artist Anne Perkins Wert said to me once, “the looking is the doing, too.” I looked and thought a lot, especially on the background color. I did a lot of planning for this painting so that I could avoid freezing in front of the canvas mid-process when faced with indecision or error. It worked well. I painted quickly and happily. What? Planning helped? No kidding, Amanda.
I Heart Art
I do! I make it, sell it, think about it, look at it, read about it, and (sometimes) I write about it. Join my mailing list, and you'll receive my brief--promise--messages about new work, shows, events, and a little inspiration. Probably a picture of my dog, too.