Over the past month I’ve been working round the clock – before work, after work, weekends and rare days off – to complete another painting a day challenge, to complete 30 paintings in 30 days. I finally downed the brushes a couple of days ago and had a night off! If you’ve been following my work for a while, you’ll remember the 30-in-30 seed packet challenge from a few years ago, painting a different seed packet every day for 30 days. Not seed packets this time – this new project concentrates on still life subjects from around the house – food, shoes, plates, cups, whatever gave me some inspiration that day.
You may have heard of the 10,000 hours concept – where it takes an average of 10,000 hours to become skilled at anything, taken from a study paper by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, a theory later expanded on by Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers. I can’t say if I’m at that number, but I can say that working at anything you love doing for such a sustained period – in this case from 1-3 hours per day for 30 days – I certainly noticed the difference.
I realised what I could do (paint teaspoons – try it, it’s not easy!), pushed through pain barriers (some were REALLY hard and took several attempts, wiping off the wet oil paint and starting an area again), what would make a better painting (changing composition, lighting, background) and what I could achieve around an already busy lifestyle.
The idea of doing a painting a day isn’t new. Its popularity is largely thanks to American painter Duane Keiser. Back in 2004 Duane started a blog, turning away from his large-scale, long term paintings, posting a new painting every day and listing it for sale in an online auction. Back then, this was a breakthrough for artists, using the relatively new internet technology, to take control of their own market, sales and pricing. His style of paintings took the term ‘Premier coup’, or first strike, each made in one sitting. Another term people use for this style is Alla Prima.
Also known as ‘direct painting’, ‘au premier coup’ or occasionally mistakenly as ‘wet-on-wet’, alla prima is a one-layer painting technique in which the painting (usually painted from life) is completed in one sitting or while the paint is still wet.
The term derives from the Italian phrase meaning ‘at first attempt’. It is mostly commonly used in oil painting, and is not suited to painting with acrylics because of their faster dry timefrom www.artistsnetwork.com
Duane continues to paint, perhaps not every day now, but still maintaining a healthy sustained practice.
This new 30-in-30 is thanks to Duane – I enrolled in his online course this October, in part as impetus to paint more frequently but moreover to learn some of Duane’s wisdom. I’ve long been a fan and follower of his work. This was not an art course as you might imagine (many art courses will teach you how to paint, how to apply paint etc), we all tried to learn what it is to capture the experience of a scene – capturing the glance rather than the gaze. I know I have a long way yet to master this. I often found myself getting caught up in the paint and the joys of capturing anything in the fluid movement of the brush. A few thousand hours more might take me closer to ‘the experience’.
As I laid out all of the paintings today, analysing the strengths and weaknesses, the areas I’d like to develop and subjects I’d like to paint more of, I thought of Frankenstein, of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Lorna Doone – all of the books I’ve listened to while painting into the night. It’s funny how an image of bananas can bring back memories of ice flows.
Over the next 30 days or so I’ll be posting one painting a day, in the order I painted them and simultaneously listing them in my shop.
Each painting is either 11×14 inches or A4 – all painted in oils on twice primed paper, either Strathmore Bristol or Watercolour paper.
I hope you find something amongst them that brings you joy.
And if 30-in-30 has inspired you, I do recommend you following the work of either Duane Keiser, or Carol Marine (another fond painting-a-day-er) or better still, try your hand at your own 30 day challenge, in no matter what field.