I’ve made it to the end of another painting challenge and here’s the collection of works. Now for the big question – Why do we do it to ourselves?
Every time I take on one of these I reach a point somewhere along the way where I ask myself that question. It doesn’t seem particularly sane. But I do know the answer: I do it because it makes me paint more. It’s very easy at the end of a working day to just sit passively in front of the TV – that’s always a temptation. But if I’m working towards a goal, I will get into the studio for an hour or two before I slow down for the evening. It’s as simple as that.
A painting challenge just like any other training, is an opportunity to practice and improve. It’s really no different to the marathon runner who puts their running shoes on every evening and gets on the road for a training session, or a cyclist who pedals along tarmac for an hour a day. It’s just exercising a different set of muscles – the creative ones in this case. (I’m sure we do have creative muscles – if not literally, then at least figuratively.)
Here’s a brief breakdown of the painting challenge works:
New Year is a perfect opportunity to review the past year and think about how to make the most of 2014.
Wow – that was a busy year. It was a transformational year for my painting too. Firsts for me in 2013 were:
Out of the studio:
– First major joint exhibition. This took place in March when I shared an exhibition with Mark Judson and Denise Shearing. It was a great experience: the planning, the setup and the sales. It was a massive confidence builder as it resulted in commissions which have taken me all the way through to Christmas.
– Started Running With Brushes in July. 25 other artists have joined the project and we have now sold 142 paintings, raising over £2100 for Care for Casualties in the process. 312 paintings have been completed for the project to date.
– Held my first Open Studio event as part of the Saffron Walden Open Studios weekend.
– Made my first online sales this year.
Painting: – Tried my hand at mixed media and working in acrylics on a 2 day workshop with the marvellous Georgia Mansur (expertly organised by Mita Higton) – 77 Running With Brushes paintings – great for brush mileage – Explored new subjects and managed my first portrait and figure painting.
– Took part in Leslie Saeta’s 30 Paintings in 30 Days – more brush mileage and a great way to build up my Running With Brushes works.
Things that didn’t work so well:
– I spent a lot of time travelling to take paintings to exhibitions that just didn’t work for me. Some because they were too busy, and some because they were badly organised.
– Although I took my paints and paper with me while I was on work trips, I still find it difficult to get into painting mode when I’m away from my studio.
Here are some of my most popular paintings of 2013:
2014 – The Plan
Out of the Studio:
– I’m planning to be more selective about the exhibitions I take part in during 2014. The time I spend in preparing for an exhibition is painting time lost and I’ve decided it must be worthwhile to warrant that sacrifice. So for 2014, I will only take part in selection exhibitions if I can submit my work online, or it is a local exhibition. I’ll be cutting out those that I’ve tried in past years and that haven’t worked for me for 2 years.
– As other bloggers will know, writing a blog takes a huge amount of time. It’s been wonderful having new readers commenting this year, and I will continue to blog. I enjoy experimenting with paint and the posts about my experiments seem to be some of the most useful. I’m considering a new series on What’s in my Studio which will go through the tools, materials and references I use. I hope this will prove a useful subject for other artists.
– In addition to Saffron Walden Open Studios, I’ve signed up for Cambridge Open Studios this year. That will give people one weekend at the end of April/beginning of May, and two weekends in July to visit my studio. Last year, I loved meeting people who wanted to talk about painting and were interested in my work. More of that in this coming year.
– Lots of exhibition visits, particularly at the Mall Galleries where there are many exhibitions of works from artist I admire and who inspire me to keep on painting and stretching myself.
– Expand my online sales which got off to a good start in 2013.
Painting: – Continuing my pursuit of brush mileage to improve my painting skills, I am taking part in Leslie’s January 30 Paintings in 30 Days series. I pre-painted my first share which was actually posted online a couple of days ago. But as it’s a gift for someone whose birthday is today, it was done a couple of days ago so I’ve counted it as day 1.
– I’ve spent some of today organising my studio, and resolved to spend more time doing paint exercises and recording the results of my pigment studies.
– There is a pile of magazines and books in my studio which I have read superficially. 2014 will be the year to go through them in more detail and spend time making notes and working on ideas and tips I gather from them.
– More time spent on challenging subjects. Portraits, animals and figure work will be on the agenda.
– Texture, texture, texture – it’s thrilling and I love it when the texture transforms a painting.
– I have a fabulous week of Plein Air painting in France with Olivia Quintin and Fabio Cembranelli planned for September. I’m challenging myself to get comfortable painting outside the studio.
– Doing three open studio weekends means I must paint enough new work to make it an interesting and worthwhile experience for visitors. Setting deadlines for myself is a great way to make me paint, paint, paint.
I’ve written (probably quite often) about my block when it comes to painting people. It extends to just about all living things but I did manage to start breaking it down during the past year by painting a few animals. There was the frog, the lizard, and finally a rooster.
Then I was asked to painting a portrait via Running With Brushes for someone who wanted it as a Christmas gift for their partner. She knew portraits weren’t my forte, but was brave enough to let me have a go anyway. I had a couple of attempts but eventually got to a painting that captured the little girl’s likeness. It was a real breakthrough moment for me and it has made me want to do more.
Emboldened by my ability to paint an actual face, I went on and painted a whole person!
I really wanted to capture the dynamic energy of the sport in this painting. The approach I took with painting a figure was a little different to my usual way of working. As a general rule, we’re told to think about our work as just being blocks of colour. That way, once you’ve got the main masses of colour right in terms of their tonal values, you know you’ve got the most important element right. In this case, I felt it was important to get the structure of the body right. I needed to visualise the angles of the arms and particularly, the legs, before I could start laying down the colour.
This one is a gift for someone who loves to ski. I really hope he think’s I’ve captured the essence of the sport. Now that I’ve broken the barrier, who knows what till come next? I quite like the challenge of capturing movement so that may be my theme for a while.