In December I decided to embark on a 30 day painting challenge throughout January, and duly kitted myself out with 30 6x8” canvas panels and a list of things I wanted to paint, so I wouldn’t be thwarted by indecision and procrastination! The list was complied to include subject matter I wouldn’t normally paint, such as portraits from life and a self-portrait, and specific exercises such as painting in a specified time, using specific colours, etc etc. I basically wanted the challenge not to be just a test of fulfilling a challenge (which I admittedly have tried and failed at before), but also to enable a certain amount of education and growth. I’m noting my thoughts of each days painting as I go along, to gain as much as possible from the process.
So here is the end of week one, which is actually only 6 days worth this week...
DAY 1 - I thought I’d get in a painting of a Christmas tree before twelfth night. A certain amount of artistic license was taken with this interior, a subject which I’m not completely comfortable with, my natural painting environment being outside, but a good way of getting stuck in without issues of rapidly changing light etc.
DAY 2 - This was painted in a fairly short period of time en plein air. What did I learn from this painting? Don’t take the dog out painting with me as it will end in disaster if his tail accidentally gets in the paint (see my Facebook or Instagram feeds for the story on this!). Secondly, it was also a good exercise on getting the values right at the start - I wasted too much time with this one making big changes at a later stage. I know it’s far from being a great painting, however I do like the overall feel of it, and think I eventually got the essence of the grey January day with it. By the way, it’s of the 1000 year old steps which, along with the foundations, are all that remains from the ruins of Duffield Castle here in Derbyshire.
DAY 3 - This was an exercise I set myself to paint something in 5 minutes. Without too much deliberation, I chose a bowl of chestnuts and a candle, pre-mixing a bit to save time, and using just one brush. Due to time limitations, it is to be expected that there is little background and detail, just big descriptive shapes, but it was a great exercise in using brief gestural marks and resisting the temptation to continue and to fiddle. I am planning further exercises during the challenge with limits on time and brushstrokes allowed, so will continue to explore this theme on how setting such limitations can help loosen my work up and prevent over-working.
DAY 4 - This was a challenge to paint entirely with a palette knife, no brushes allowed! So I was pleased to have my husbands birthday cake to hand, which made the perfect model for a palette knife painting, as it was almost like icing a cake with knife and thick juicy oil paint! Very messy, and lots of paint was consumed, although I did miss the control that brushes offer versus the knife.
DAY 5 - Today was a challenge to paint something in 10 minutes, so I grabbed studio bear and got to work. It’s a great discipline to have such a limited time and strictly place down the brush on the 10 minute timer. I might even employ this tactic the next time I paint en plein air, to avoid overworking. On the palette you can see the pile of grey which I mix at the end of each painting session using all the unused colour, making a nice neutral for next time.
I will do a weekly round-up blog post at the end of each week, showing the progress of the challenge, and a few of my thoughts on the paintings.
As is normal for the U.K., the weather so far this October has been a bit hit and miss. We’ve had some of the hottest October days ever recorded and some very wet and windy weather, so it’s been a bit of a mix between plein air and studio work for me.
Here’s a couple of recent pics of studio paintings...
I’ve been feeling a little poorly this week with an ear infection, and feeling a bit dizzy from the antibiotics today, so thought it would be wiser to stay close to home to paint. So here’s my painting of the dining room...
. I wanted to paint the lovely handpainted cabinet together with the sunflowers and Anthropologie plate my sister in law recently bought me. The light and the blue-grey colours really caught my eye, and perfectly complement the yellow of the sunflowers. This is the finished painting. It’s the sort of subject that you can carry on fiddling with forever, but I want to keep the spontaneous brushwork, so I’m calling it finished as it is...