I’ve given myself the gift of working with artist and painting mentor Sarah Sedwick to spur my growth as an artist, learn new techniques, improve skills and get help from an expert who can spot problems that may be hindering me and that I can’t see myself. We’ve been working on value and color mixing with limited palettes, and after an awful bout of reworking a painting to death she challenged me to do three one-hour paintings. Unfortunately I seem to be constitutionally incapable of doing 1-hour studies, although I haven’t given up trying. My 4 studies above are all 7×5 inches on Arches Oil Paper. Below are the work in progress photos including a photo of the still-life set-ups (though these were all done from life) and in some cases, the color palettes used. You can click on any image to see the set enlarged.
Despite my intention each time to do a one-hour study, I painted three-hour (or more) studies. I worked quickly enough to leave them looking unfinished to me, but slowly enough to lose the freshness and conviction of the original brushstrokes. As Sarah explained, the goal wasn’t to learn to paint fast but rather to loosen up and get out of the rut of perfectionism, to get bold and concise with brushstrokes. She said, “The point of timed paintings is to set a constraint so we can be more free in other ways, not create more struggle. We aren’t attempting to create finished masterpieces in one hour, here – it’s a challenge to yourself to see how much you can do, how freely, how efficiently. Setting a time limit frees you to experiment – to slap on some thick paint in an area and go with it – to not stress as much about the drawing and composition – you can fix any issues in the NEXT painting.”
Part of my problem with these attempts I think, was setting up too complicated of a subject. When I get back to the studio today I’m going to use a simpler subject. And will force myself to stop at one hour no matter what. If I sketch in the composition too quickly it’s inaccurate and I spend my painting time correcting my drawing mistakes. By the time I’ve done a preliminary sketch and/or a careful sketch on the canvas, blocked in the shapes and values with a quick burnt sienna wash/underpainting, the hour is up. I can easily spend another half hour pre-mixing my paint.
Then when I start painting I get interested in all the cool light effects and details I see and want to capture. I forget my plan to go with 3 values per subject, simple planes and shapes, big brushstrokes and instead soar off into the groove of seeing and painting, seeing and painting until I look at the clock and suddenly it’s 8:00 pm and I haven’t had dinner or midnight…and I long ago turned off the timer and have lost it again!
I painted the 4th still life below with a limited 4-color palette (White plus Cad yellow pale, Cadmium Red Medium, Ultramarine blue) but in the end I added in a bit of Cad yellow medium and Phthalo blue) because I just couldn’t get the colors I wanted for the lemons and blue background.
But I am determined, and today I will succeed! I am an optimist, for sure, since that’s what I always say when I go to the studio, but I will obey my timer and see what I can accomplish in one-hour one more time.