Book review: “Daily Painting” by Carol Marine

It’s a long title, but it so perfectly explains what you’ll find when you read Carol Marine‘s book Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist.

I think this is one of those books you have to be in the right frame of mind to read. Well, maybe that’s all books. But anyway I originally checked this book out from my library several months ago. I half-heartedly flipped through it and returned it. Which is ironic because she talks in the book about disregarding some sage advice at the beginning of her career to paint every day, and how she promptly ignored that excellent advice! Clearly I wasn’t feeling motivated enough to put it into practice yet.

A few months later, I was searching around online for who-knows-what and ran across the Savvy Painter Podcast interview with Carol. She was so down to earth and had lots of wisdom to share based on her experience. She talked about being frustrated with her post-college painting pains and how heart-breaking it would be to spend all this time and money making a large painting only to be disappointed with the outcome. Eventually she started painting small paintings every day, developing her skills much quicker, trying new styles out, and selling these smaller pieces.

Hearing this interview happened to come at a time when I was mentally primed for the benefits of forming a daily habit to help reach my goals. I had realized that what I secretly wanted to do for years (become an illustrator) was possible — if I just started down that path and made it happen. But what about my lack of illustration training and rusty art skills? It finally hit me that the only way to get better at these things was to DO THEM. Not think about them, read about them, wish they were better. Do them.

Daily Painting helped me get motivated to make art every day.

Another great interview that helped me appreciate the power of daily habits was a conversation between Jay Papasan (who co-wrote The One Thing) and James Clear (a productivity expert). In it, they talk about running a marathon and how when you set a goal to run one, you don’t think “OK tomorrow I’ll run a marathon.” You simply start running every day. And eventually you’ll be running a marathon.

Feeling inspired by these things, I checked Carol’s book out from the library again and this time truly appreciated everything she writes about because I was ready to actually hear it. I couldn’t put it down.

About the book

Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist by Carol Marine, published in 2014.

Carol is very generous with what she’s learned about being a professional painter and truly wants artists to succeed. Yes, she inspires with her story, but she also covers the nitty-gritty details of creating a painting, making it available for sale, and working through artist’s block.

The book is written in a friendly, personable way that’s easy to read. In addition to Carol’s personal story of her journey from frustrated art school graduate to a thriving artist who regularly sells her work, there are stories of other daily artists to help balance it out. We get to hear from many people about how daily painting has helped them and their careers. This provides a well-rounded look into its benefits and isn’t just a solitary push to “drink the Kool aid”.

After you’re inspired to embark on daily painting, you’ll get lessons on choosing materials and subject matter, plus a whole bunch of information about foundational art skills like value, color mixing, drawing & proportion, and composition. This is the most succinct, clearly laid out explanation of these things I’ve come across.

This book not only inspires, but it also instructs. It takes the mystique and idealized romanticism out of being an artist and shows you how to actually be one.

Daily Painting by Carol Marine review - comparison painting
Like a virtual critique from a pro painter, this section compares a typical painting of an apple with a more nuanced and observant version. This is on my list of things to try.
Daily Painting by Carol Marine review - value exercise
The wipe-away method of revealing light values of a subject is so cool to actually do! I did an adapted version of it in gouache.
Daily Painting by Carol Marine review - working with edges in a painting
I hadn’t seen this approach of painting past the edges of a subject and cutting in with the background elements, but I love it. I tried this in gouache and like the way the edges are softened and blended.

The amount of actionable information is impressive, from exercises and practical techniques to getting past feeling blocked and uninspired. I really get the sense that Carol took all of her frustrated disappointment that came out of her art education and turned it into an optimistic and empowering guide for artists.

Daily Painting is a good book for anyone who’s feeling unsure of how to approach a career in art and is looking for direction, motivation, and tools to make it happen. It’s not a “how to paint for beginners” book, but if you have basic painting skills and want to take your work to the next level and make it available for sale, I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

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