I have often thought that times we need our art most can be times when it’s hardest to get around to it. Although some thrive on being busy, others tend to feel overwhelmed with the long to do lists that happen this time of year. Here are some suggested ‘quick fixes’ for your artistic soul this busy season. 1. Make a habit of pausing now and then to think of one thing to be thankful for – perhaps your creative spirit! / 2. Sit down and, even though there is no time to paint, jot down what subjects or themes you would like to paint next. / 3. Get a soft pencil – 4B or softer – and do a few quick sketches. Use your finger to smear it for fast shading./ 4. Keep your camera nearby for when something beautiful catches your eye. / 5. Set out a couple of your favourite art books and take a 15 minute break to flip through them. / 6. Bless a total stranger with a cheery smile while you are out and about. It’s one of the nicer things that can be contagious!
It doesn’t really matter whether you paint quickly or slowly, as long as you are enjoying it. However, there are some real advantages to giving yourself some timed exercises. This is how it works… You need a timer, the stove one would be fine. Have your reference near by, get your paints out and ready with a medium sized brush (no little brushes), set the timer for 20 minutes (or shorter), and push ‘start’. The idea is to see if you can capture the essence of your reference in a short period of time. This forces you to move the brush quickly and concentrate on the main shapes. It doesn’t give you time to fuss with details. Try doing several of these in a row with a different reference each time. You may be suprised by how well they can turn out, and what a fun way this is to hone your painting skills.
When you are a beginner at painting, it takes courage to get that paint onto the paper or canvas. When you are an intermediate painter, and your vision for what you want your art to be and what is actually happening with the paint are not the same, it takes courage to carry on. As a more advanced artist, you hope to make art that will really stand out. No matter what stage your art is at, it’s a good thing to dare greatly.
We had a discussion recently in art class about the concept of blocking in. This concept was a difficult one for some to grasp. In its simplest form, blocking in means to see the main large shapes in your painting, and quickly paint these without much detail. It’s a great way to check that your overall composition is a good one. Too often the little details can detract from seeing the big picture well. In acrylic it’s easy to do the blocking in quickly, since it dries fast and can be painted over with details as desired. Oil painters sometimes greatly thin the first layer of paint when blocking in. With water mixable oils, it is the only time it is acceptable to add lots of water to your paint. The paint will dry much more quickly, and you must be sure that this initial thin layer will all be completely covered later with thicker oil paint in order to avoid any crackling. Watercolourists are sometimes more comfortable simply doing a quick black and white pencil sketch of the main shapes on a scrap paper since watercolour is more difficult to work on top of at times. Below are 2 images of one of my paintings – one to show the blocking in stage, and then the completed painting. This painting is fluid acrylic on canvas; although it was done in a very watercolour style.