Today is my 61st birthday. The challenge to create a painting a day I began 61 days ago is now complete. As I look at the wall of paintings in my studio from this challenge, I still can’t believe I managed to do a painting a day, every day, for this many days in a row. What started out as a lark, quickly really did become one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced.
It didn’t take long to realize that I would have to decide what to paint, how to manage it within a very small amount of time, and how to finish the painting well enough to post it on Instagram and my website. The majority of the paintings were done after a full day’s work and an hour commute. I would get home around six, eat dinner, and be in front of a blank canvas at seven o’clock. Sometimes I faced that canvas with no idea of what I was going to paint. This proved to be a good thing, because it made me reach for items I have around the house. I never thought I would paint still life, being mostly a portrait artist. This challenge made me step into a different art category, which has made a huge impact on what I will paint in the future.
I will also admit that I used to rely a lot on gridding and tracing, what I thought was a faster way to get to the actual painting. Now, after this challenge, my drawing skills have grown substantially and I have found that this is the fastest way to get to the painting part. When you only have a few hours to paint, there’s no time for all that gridding and tracing; you have to quickly draw what you see and get on with it. I am now more confident in my drawing skills and have found that it overflows into all the art I create now.
Another way the challenge has made an impact on me is in my palette. There was not enough time to deliberate over my color choices. I had to quickly assess the subject and pull the paints I thought would give me the closest color matches and values. This led to using a very limited palette and forced me into a trial and error situation of color mixing. My eye for color has vastly improved as has my eye for values.
When I did have a weekend to paint, I found myself more willing to experiment with new techniques or subject matter. Having more than three hours to complete a painting became a luxury and sometimes I could go well over my limit of one painting a day.
One of the best parts of this challenge was that now I have a small body of work. I’m not sure what I’ll do with these paintings, but now I have more options open to me, whether it’s to sell them on an Etsy shop or other online e-commerce site, make art prints to sell online, have a little one-woman show, take some to a gallery, enter them in contests, etc.
In the past I have been worried about developing my artistic “voice” or style. This challenge has shown me that I do have a distinctive voice. There is an underlying style that is all mine, one that I will continue to develop no matter what the subject or medium may be.
But without a doubt, the best part of this challenge has been the feeling of accomplishment I have gotten from it. Some nights it was all I could do to pick up the brush. But every night of the challenge, when I lay my head on my pillow and drifted off to sleep, I felt so proud of myself for having created another painting.
I have lived with the doubt of whether I qualify to be a real artist for most of my 61 years. This insecurity has kept me from doing something I truly love for way too long. I look back at all the time I don’t have anymore. The completion of this challenge, this small body of work that I stand before now is my redemption as an artist. I have always been an artist, it just took a challenge to force me to dig that artist out of her self-imposed grave and give her the life she so richly deserves.
She’s out now and there’s no stopping her.