Wrap-up of my 100 Starts project

When I started my 100 Starts project on September 10, 2018, it sounded like something I’d be able to finish in 100 days. In my naive optimism I failed to consider how much life happens around time in the studio. Along the way I was reminded time and time again that sometimes it’s not about a finish date, but rather about the process. And that the process should be as enjoyable as what it would feel like to ultimately reach the goal.

When I finished the project on January 13, 2019, I was actually quite happy to count that it was 125 days since I began. It felt like so much longer from my vantage point in the middle of it!

The parameters of the project remained fairly consistent throughout, with some minor adjustments along the way. From the start, my goal was to paint relatively small studies (beginning acrylic paint and 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 panels and changing to oil paint and a size of 6 1/2 x 5 part way in) from life in about 30 minutes. The studies were to be simplified color masses rather than detailed, fully-realized paintings. I wanted to learn how to mix colors quickly and accurately based on what I was seeing in front of me, and to distinguish the shadow family from the light family as a foundation for developing my painting skills further.

Complete set of my 100 Starts project
The complete set of my 100 Starts project

What I learned

  • with fewer values and strong separation of light and shadow families, the studies look really good at small sizes (good for online gallery situations where I want my painting to stand out among many)
  • the value of staying loose and blocking in shapes and colors before going to detail
  • be open minded about subject matter — something that seems interesting could be a really dull painting subject, and something that seems lackluster can come alive
  • how to draw faster and more accurately
  • how to simplify shapes
  • how to mix colors more quickly
  • how to distinguish between shadow family and light family (at least in direct, single light source situations)
  • compositional improvements with angles, lighting, and relationships between objects
  • I have a lot more fun painting subjects that are based in natural, organic shapes with irregular volume that makes interesting shadow shapes (such as a plush dog toy or fruit versus a wood bowl or ceramic pitcher)

Biggest successes

  • pushing myself into more challenging territory with subject matter
  • learning how to use oil paints (after switching from acrylics) — I had hesitated for so long to pick up this medium and I’m so glad I did! I love painting with oils now
  • developing the habit of jumping into painting without building it up into something I can only begin “as soon as there’s more time”

My top five favorites

The shadow shapes on this lemon helped me see the impact lighting angles have on describing form

I doubted my ability to paint these petals, but pushed myself into new territory and was delighted to see that it actually looks like a flower!

I struggled with mixing the colors here, but in the end they came together well, so it felt like an unanticipated victory. Also, cute little hedgehog!

I like the composition, contrast of warm and cool colors, and how bright the orange looks next to the muted colors

There’s a real sense of volume and form with this one that was fun to see 

Opportunities to improve

  • distinguishing light from shadow by deepening the shadow colors rather than adding a bunch of white to the lights (basically retaining the purity/intensity of color of things in the light)
  • composition and more diverse lighting conditions
  • pausing to check and correct the drawing before moving to color and being willing to correct the drawing as the painting progresses

Next focused practice

For my next focused practice, my goal is to become comfortable completely finishing paintings. I’ll create a series of 50 paintings, 6×8 inches, in about 60 minutes each. My intention isn’t to work them until I feel they’re beautiful, but rather build the muscle memory of going through the stages of a finished painting quickly. I also want to build my experience painting from photos so for this project I’ll use photos as my reference.

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