How much time did you spend in the studio in the past month? If you’re like me, it wasn’t as much as you wanted. It’s great to spend time with family, eat lots of food, celebrate together. Then the last week of December our thoughts turn to the new year and re-booting our life and our creative time.
It’s time to re-start my daily painting habit.
One fabulous way to reboot is to do a painting challenge and January is the season of online challenges. They can help us establish good habits before our resolve dissolves. We want to ring in the new year as new people. Potentially, at least.
Doing a painting challenge is fun and great for jump-starting your studio practice after the lull of food and family over the holidays. A popular one for painters is the Strada Easel challenge which also gives you the chance to win an easel. A group of my artist friends is also having a 30-day painting challenge to start off the year.
Challenges can be a great time to explore new mediums, painting techniques, and subjects. They can provide limits that help us develop skills faster. And how satisfying it would be to end the month with 30 new paintings, especially if that equals your normal annual output!
It’s important to decide if the challenge is a good fit by asking yourself a few questions
- First is there something you want to explore? An idea or subject, a particular color palette or painting technique? Are you painting from life or do you have painting references you can assemble ahead of time?
- Do you have the time to devote to it? Do you have family support for it? What about other painting commitments? Will you get to those as well?
- What are your expectations? Do you want the paintings you do to be ‘finished’ and successful? Or is a sense of accomplishment and completion the important thing?
- Will you post images of your finished work or of work in progress? Doing larger work means painting over several days on the same piece. I find that often the points at which I stop each day can be awkward looking and not something I always want to post online.
- It’s good to know why you’re doing the challenge. Is it to create a body of work? to extend your audience through regular posting? to challenge yourself beyond what you think you can do?
The daily eight
Although I love the idea and the benefits, a challenge is not always a good fit for me. I shoot for finishing 6-8 square inches in a day, but I may paint only 4 square inches or less that I’m happy with. I may have to scrape out passages or even the whole painting. If that happens too many times it can seriously affect my self-confidence. If it goes on for a while, I can fall behind the 8 ball, so to speak. It can also make getting into the studio the next day a little daunting.
Measuring daily progress can be a challenge if you work on larger paintings. I mostly paint pieces from 12×16 inches to 30×36 inches rather than 6 or 8-inch squares, so measuring my daily progress is not so straightforward. No way I can finish a 12×16 in a day.
But, you can also create your own version of a challenge.
This year, I’m joining the Artist Working Group challenge but I’m not doing it in the same way as everyone else.
I won’t measure my progress in inches of canvas covered or the number of pictures posted or likes received. Rather I’m measuring it by minutes of time moving the brush. So, I won’t be doing 30 paintings in January, in fact, I’m not sure how many I’ll do or how many I’ll post. That’s not the measure of success I’m aiming for. But I will be painting daily and making daily progress on rebooting my painting habit.
My commitment is to spend a minimum of 3 hours a day painting. That’s brush time, folks. Not just being in the studio, humming and singing, preparing surfaces, framing work, keeping records, petting the dog, sweeping up, or any of the other myriad tasks that fall to the working artist.
You can see all the artists on the AWG blog and my progress by following me on Instagram where I’ll occasionally post what I’m doing. Not daily perhaps, but when there’s something to see. It all starts tomorrow.
And whatever your challenges this year I hope they are fun and that you make daily progress.
I wish for you the happiest of new years and that 2018 brings you peace and joy and more time doing what you love.