A PAINTING A DAY KEEPS THE CREATIVITY AWAKE: APRIL CHALLENGE
June 16, 2022
I’ve been saying for a while that I was going to write about the art challenge I pursued in April of doing a painting every day. Well, I’m finally getting around to it.
Let’s start with the origins of this challenge. I was feeling really stagnant and stumped in my art career in March; as many of you know, I had quit my pharmaceutical job in July of 2021, so I was quickly approaching a year of full-time painting and felt like I had nothing to show for it. My husband, Collin, and I decided to take a day trip to Mt. Lemmon and discuss my business plan. We determined that a large part of what was keeping me stagnant was this pressure I felt to create a masterpiece every time I painted. After all, if you’re only painting once a week as a full-time artist, that time better be worth it. But fear of failure was holding me back… everything I created looked ameteur, which I believe was just my angst coming through the art.
Something had to change. I needed to break through this artist’s block, and what better way to do that then to just… PAINT! We decided I would do a painting a day with the fear of it not looking “professional” being set aside. And wouldn’t you know, it worked.
With each painting I grew more courageous. The first few days I painted small objects on a quarter of a piece of paper, because that was all I had confidence to complete in a day. But then it started to snowball, and by the end of April I was painting full 8x10” canvases. So, let me share with you what I was learning that helped me to gain confidence so quickly:
I worked solely from 5 colors: titanium white, mars black, ultramarine blue, permanent red, and yellow medium (brand, Master’s Touch Oil). Immediately I was forced to work on color theory by mixing from these 5 shades. This grew my confidence exponentially, as I learned that the color didn’t need to be exact to the reference so long as the colors related to one another in a way that made sense. For instance, if the table that the reference object was sitting on was brown and the shadow the object created was a darker brown, I could easily make the decision for the table in the painting to be white, so long as the correlating show was an appropriate gray.
I learned to work quickly. One of the benefits of working quickly is that your brain doesn’t get in the way so much. I’ve found that when a piece takes me months to finish, so much of the time spent on that painting is staring at it and trying to deduce what needs to be fixed. But if you exercise painting quickly with no fear of failure, you’ll actually learn to bypass your brain in a productive way. I believe we all have an eye for the aesthetic, and trusting that can sometimes be far more freeing and create a much more unique result than scanning the piece a million times over before putting the brush to the canvas.
I learned that other people almost always love the pieces that I think are the least impressive. With 30 paintings completed in April, nearly all the ones that I thought were silly or rudimentary were the ones that got attention. This realization helped to take some pressure off internally, because I could now post my less-than-great artwork (in my opinion) publicly without fear of being scrutinized.
I became less picky about what to paint. I am a very “go out and change the world” kind of lady, so painting, like with most things in my life, has a mission behind it. For me, that mission is spreading the gospel and sharing the truth of Jesus; but this can be overwhelming sometimes because, what if it’s not powerful enough? What if I visually tell the story wrong? I’ve found that I actually get less frozen in my what-to-paint decision making process now than I did before painting every day for a month. If I “fail,” so what? I can always try again tomorrow.
I learned to love the process. It’s about the journey, not the destination. This is such a cliche, isn’t it? But heck! It’s true! Yes, part of being an artist is the desire to have a masterful new thing in the world that no one else could have concocted but you, but it’s also about your personal relationship with the canvas. It’s about how the paint feels on your brush, how the colors bring you peace and expression, and how the physical action of painting creates a flow state in you. Paint as often as you can, and love it!
So there you have it. There is much more I could discuss about how this April challenge benefited me as an artist, but I hope that these five points give you some motivation and inspiration to try a challenge for yourself. What have you got to lose?
With love and blessings,