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From 2008 to Blank Slate: A Year’s Work

A Year's Oil Painting Study
A Year's Oil Painting Study

I spent New Year’s Day sorting through the piles of sketchbooks and paintings I completed in 2008 and preparing the studio for 2009. My bulletin board is now a blank slate, ready for new work to go up. I gathered all the oil paintings that hadn’t gone directly to the garbage (121 survived) and sorted them into the piles you see above.

On the left are the 68 paintings heading off to the garage as a sort of purgatory zone. Next year they’ll probably go in the trash.

The middle stack of 42 are now shelved in the studio. These are the paintings that show progress and bits of success, but that I don’t want to hang on the walls.

The last pile on the right (plus the standing canvas of me) are the 11 paintings from 2009 that I like, imperfections and all. Also shown above is the presentation folder into which I inserted my oil paint color studies. I refer to these charts quite often and will be making more for new colors I’m experimenting with. It’s handy having them in this binder.

Sketchbooks completed in 2008
Sketchbooks completed in 2008

Above are the sketchbooks I completed in 2008 (and cheating just a bit, the first week of 2009). Half of them were actually started in 2008, but the other half were left over from previous years, when I was working in multiple sketchbooks at one time, without finishing any of them.

2008 and 2009 Art Goals

I just reread my January 1, 2008 art goals:

“My art goals for 2008 are also very simple: to enjoy myself by exploring whatever directions I find interesting, challenging, exciting, pleasurable, fun. No lists of shoulds, no rules other than play, practice and enjoy the journey.

My hope is that by this time next year I will have earned enough competence with oils that I can comfortably and freely work in the medium most fitting to the subject or idea I want to express, whether it be ink, watercolor, oils, goauche, or monoprint.”

I think I did pretty well in following that plan, pursuing many art adventures, including a considerable amount of plein air painting, sketching and and lots of study and practice in oil painting. I studied independently, with books, videos and with teachers and just tried to put those “miles on my brushes” as they say.

I still don’t feel completely competent with oils; I know what I don’t know, but I know what I do know too.

Goals for 2009:

1. Begin my 10,000 Days of Art project and make each of those days count. And again, the same hope as last year… “that by this time next year I will have earned enough competence with oils that I can comfortably and freely work in the medium most fitting to the subject or idea I want to express, whether it be ink, watercolor, oils, goauche, or monoprint.” Also I’d like to do morewith goauche and monoprint this year.

2. Do something I learned from my best friend Barbara, an amazing ceramic artist and art blogger:

Ask each day: “What can I do to enjoy myself today?
(I know this sounds a bit self-indulgent, but it’s often hard-earned and provides the “filling of the well” necessary to be able to do good for others too.)

Since enjoying myself always involves drawing, painting or other art-making, I intend to have a very enjoyable and artful year.

15 replies on “From 2008 to Blank Slate: A Year’s Work”

I think that’s a wonderful plan! I noticed many plans are more focused on the enjoyment this year. It seemed a couple of years ago that there were many very ambitious plans that made me feel inadequate just reading them! I love the photos, you had a very prolific and productive 2008!


Wow, you definitley did alot of sketching and painting. You should feel very good with such success. I really enjoy how you have it all together and are organizing it. If I like something I try to frame it and put it up, then if late I like something better I change something out to make room! LOL Thanks for the wonderful peek into your year.


Jana-I just read your comment! Thank you so much, I’m almost crying it made me so happy:) It just means allot coming from you, I admire your work so much. For the longest time these watercolor tubes sat in the box unopened because I was waiting until I was better at drawing, got some good brushes,read some watercolor books, but I’m glad I didn’t wait-I still need to do all of those things, but I never would have known that I REALLY like to do these watercolor sketches (it’s tied with regular pencil sketching)
I want to have a stack of sketch books at the end of 2009 like yours!! I would love to see the original photo (seems like it would be much harder to do it from the photo though, is it?)
I have to go to work now, won’t be home until late this evening, but if I’m not to tired, I’ll try another one (I sketched out the hot dog shop place too-not all of the details, like the closed sign etc. I’ll let you know after I try it!!)
ok-I better quit or I will be late to work
Thanks again!


Wow, I came here via Barbara’s blog and love your blog, beautiful oils and watercolors and what a fun thing to have a neighbor who leaves free stuff by the curbside, lucky you. What an amazing amount of work you accomplished in 2008, that is an inspiration to me to get going with this year. Thanks.


Wow, Jana, what a grand way to end out a year, stack it up and make ready for another go. (You’ve been prolific too!) You are so organized, it makes me want to do the same thing. Thanks for the inspiration, I always hop right over when you send your notices of new posts.


Pretty incredible output for a first oil painting year! Great to be able to let go of the ones you learned on and have a stack of 11 plus that you are happy enough with. (I would be plenty happy if what I accomplished for the year was doing those color studies – amazing). I love how you fully embrace whatever process you take on.


Jana, thanks much for the good letter. I have to tell you, I think the feelings of not being adequate seem to attack all artists, even the best, and they come more from soaring aspiration than actual work. Are they good guides?

Leonardo only turned out seven or eight things he liked.

(I’ve turned out one.)

Objectively speaking, I’m sure we would all say you have made dramatic and very interesting, often surprising, changes over the year. For example, I think you now have stronger use of color and charming freshness in composition. This progress has been too steady to be a fluke.


Thanks Chloe. I always love hearing from you and appreciate your astute
comments. I do have some raw umber and haven’t used it much but today I was
watching a painting video and I saw how useful it was in portrait painting.


Very inspiring – I’m going to write down my art goals and keep them handy. I didn’t make any resolutions this year – and have felt a little guilty about it. Maybe I just needed some “inspiration.”


I like your plans for 2009, and may adopt your friend Barbara’s advice myself! I’m so impressed by your stack of sketchbooks … I always start sketchbooks, but never keep them up. Perhaps my resolution for 09 will be to start on my own pile so I can experience that satisfaction in 2010!


Hi Laura. The reason the stack was so tall was because I’d started half of
them in previous years and hadn’t finished them. So don’t feel bad! It did
feel good to finally get them completed though. Doesn’t 2010 sound like
something in the distant future! Jana


Purgatory! What a way to describe where the place that “bad” paintings go!!!! Congratulations on a very, very successful year of art. I love your self-portrait…this along with the other images that you include in this post make for a perfect bookend to a year well done.


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