30 Oil Paintings In 30 days: The Leslie Saeta Painting Challenge


Still Life: ‘Pink Agave Blossom’

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.


Four Floral Still Lifes


Four Landscape Paintings (Oil-on-Canvas) by Valerie Rawlings


2 Cactus Still Lifes and One Abstract Painting — Valerie Rawlings


Two Fruit Still Life Paintings — Valerie Rawlings — September, 2013


Two Fruit Still Life Paintings — Nectarines, by Valerie Rawlings

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!

About Valerie Rawlings

Austin, Texas oil painter focusing on portraits, landscapes and still life paintings
This entry was posted in Floral Paintings, Landscape, Modern Art, Still Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 30 Oil Paintings In 30 days: The Leslie Saeta Painting Challenge

  1. Caren Upshaw says:

    Great Job Valerie!!

  2. Ann Childress says:

    Love the idea and what you learned from pushing yourself! I’m trying to think how I might do something similar in my writing Bible studies. I don’t want to hurry, but I might find I can shake up my normal pace and pattern and learn something in the process!

    • One of my biggest challenges is declaring it “done”. So many times I have finished, taken my photo, cleaned up the studio and when I get to my computer to post I look at the painting and EGAD, I should have….(whatever). I really havent’t had time to touch up yesterday’s paintings, but if I were smart I would be a day ahead so the photography and posting would happen after I’ve “slept on it” and made corrections. I’m not sure how it works with your writing, but shakin’ up my system has been very helpful. V