A new painting challenge: 3-A-Week

8×10 study in values

When a series of commissions and design projects came up toward the end of summer (including a Basset Hound portrait), I took a little sabbatical from landscape painting. I found that these projects left me mentally and creatively drained, and trying to cram in painting would have felt like a chore. Even though I missed painting, it was kind of cool because it gave me a little perspective on what I want to do for my next art challenge.

My primary painting guidance is coming from the Matt Smith mentorship program from Tucson Art Academy Online. It’s a 1-year program that started in July, and includes feedback from Matt on our paintings in addition to educational lessons on the fundamentals of landscape painting. I know a year is a good amount of time to take advantage of the feedback opportunities, but I also know that a year can pass surprisingly quickly without goals being met. A few weeks ago I did a check-in with myself on my 2019 goals and general activities of the year so far  and was excited to see both progress where I wasn’t expecting it and common themes that I can use to build on moving forward.

The biggest theme I noticed was that I do well with assignments. When I have a specific thing to work on — whether it’s a commission, freelance design project, or self-directed focused practice project — I stay pretty focused on it and complete the commitment. But when I keep it all loose and casual, like “I’ll just try to paint a bunch this week”, it gets pushed down the road and is replaced by other things. Usually by some assignment!

So I decided to try something I’m calling “3-A-Week”, where I make three paintings each week during the month of October. I’m combining some previous focused practice projects and the mentorship program into a workflow to give myself structure.

  1. Step one: Explore the dark/light harmony of the subject with a series of five notans, with a timer set for three minutes each.
  2. Step two: Choose a composition and locate 4-6 major shapes, assigning a value to each mass.
  3. Step three: Determine which of the four fundamentals (drawing, value, design, and color) I want to focus on with my subject.
  4. Step four: Create an 8×10 or 9×12 painting using my plan.

Back when I did the 30 days of value thumbnails project, I discovered that I like doing the planning one day and the actual painting on another day. Having a bit of a break from it helps me approach the painting stage with more energy and a fresher perspective.

I think this challenge will help me get back the momentum I had for awhile there. I felt a little rusty with this first painting of the challenge because it’s been awhile since I stood at my easel. There are several things that would improve it, and I debated whether to take the time to make these adjustments. I’d rather keep moving forward though, noting what needs help so I can keep an eye on that for the next one.