There is something about a challenge that causes you to step up your game. In my quest to be a real live artist, I was quite sure that I needed to treat painting as a job, and to do it every day without fail. But it is so easy to let other things get in the way: chores, Facebook, email, errands, straightening, organizing, TV, meal prep, grocery shopping, visiting Mom and running her errands, ad infinitum . . . you all know what I mean.
So when I saw a blog post with a challenge — to do 30 oil paintings in 30 days — from an artist named Leslie Saeta (who I happen to be taking a workshop from in February), I jumped on it! The LS challenge was to complete 30 oil paintings in the month of September. The rules were simple: sign up and post a painting every day. If you miss a day, you can post to yesterday; but later than that and that day is gone. She suggested painting small, and painting ahead if you know you have days you can’t paint.
I started out with four 6″x6″ single flowers (OK, Bruce, we can call them floral still lifes) on card stock. Then I did a few landscapes, one was a view of Lake Travis. I did a few cacti with brilliant prickly pears. Finally, yesterday I painted two versions of some yummy nectarines which were over ripening and screaming for me to hurry!
So, two thirds of the way through the challenge (21/30 oil paintings done!) I have learned a lot about the way I work. First of all, I don’t need as much time as I thought to accomplish something. While I thought I needed a big ol’ three hour block to warrant squeezing out those paints on the palette, I can make progress in just 45 minutes. I utilized a tip I heard about keeping your palette in the freezer the oil paints don’t dry out. So when cleaning up I can pop the paints in the freezer and not worry about wasting what was left from today’s session. Of course, getting started the next day is much easier.
I found that smaller canvases takes LOTS less time to paint (otherwise there’s no way I could produce 30 oil paintings in one month). Partly it is because you have to simplify your composition. I did several teeny tiny ones. And then there was the day I became a fan of the abstract-two stripes of color divided by a streak of magenta-on a 2×3 incher! It is ridiculously cute!
So looking back on these three weeks, there are some good ones and some bad ones; but I learned something on each one. I also learned that unlike the overachiever Claude Monet (who painted dozens and dozens of Haystacks and dozens of water lilies) I really want to paint something differently the second time — and the third time not at all!
Before the 30 Oil Paintings challenge I was feeling overwhelmed by my “TO DO” list that was swirling in my brain. So just before the challenge started, I began making an extensive list of everything that I needed to do. That emptied my head of all that distracting chatter. Surprisingly, I could easily see which things would be on TODAY’s list and then I didn’t give the other items another thought. I could focus on one thing and get it done! I realized I had been multitasking myself into a standstill!! So that’s my big revelation. Focus on the task at hand and forget everything else. Can do. At least for 45 minutes!