You guys, I did it!* For the third year in a row, I created a small daily painting every day in January. And wow, am I glad that it's over. Above is a collage of all the finished paintings, and below is a slideshow set to music that takes you through all 30 days.
(*Except for Day 8. It was a real stinker. I decided that my "demo" painting could count toward the 30 paintings total, rather than doing a make-up day.)
I planned to work from indirect observation, with my flowers set up in the kitchen and my painting work taking place downstairs in my studio. Robert Henri wrote about this exercise, "[The artist] could also make any sketches he might desire to make—for information—but these drawings are not to be carried into the work room. Into this room he only carries what he knows." And that's how I started.
About a week into the challenge I found myself chafing at this structure. It's one thing to set up the still life in a different room, but it's something else entirely to not be allowed to use my sketches in the studio. When I make a preliminary thumbnail sketch, I am looking for patterns and mapping out similarities within the motif. Referring to my sketch, rather than back to the subject, helps my painting stay true to my initial impressions. When the rules prevented this, they made me rely more on direct observation of the flowers (which is TOTALLY not what I thought the point of this exercise might be). And my paintings got really fussy.
Well, it's my project, right? Henri can't tell me what to do from 100 years ago. He's not the boss of me!
So in the second week I allowed myself to carry my sketches into the studio. Ah, much better.
The most successful paintings this month were the ones in which I let go of the motif more. That's where I wanted to be with these observations. More expressive, and less painting-the-whiskers-on-squirrels. And still the flowers never melted off the side of the panels. I could have pushed it all further.
But the biggest lesson I learned in January has little to do with painting or flowers. It's more like something you'd find on a cheesy motivational poster.
|"Most of life is showing up. You do the best you can, which varies from day to day." -- Regina Brett|
But I realized how grateful I am for having created forward momentum for myself, the momentum of routines.
In January I make 30 paintings, so I did that.
I need to photograph the paintings, list them on Etsy, and update my blog, so I did that.
I write a monthly newsletter, so I did that.
I didn't do it with joy. But I did it. The doing didn't stop. Because it's my job. And I get up, and go to work, even on the days I don't feel like it. I keep that date with myself.
And the paintings are fine. There's no dark cloud hanging over the work. If I hadn't told you about my flagging motivation, dear reader, you would never know from looking at that exuberantly colorful end of month collage.
I consider that a very happy ending.
Each of the paintings this month measures 6 x 6 inches and was painted with acrylic paint on birch wood panels. They are available for purchase in my Etsy shop for $100 each, along with several other small floral paintings of mine I marked down for the occasion.
Information about this project, purchasing, and shipping is here.
Also, if you want to see what my friends made in January, check out the AWGI blog here.