I jumped into this painting challenge when it was halfway through, and even at the best of times a new painting every other day is about as much as I can do. I had planned on participating but found out about the cat show February 10-11 and decided to sign up as a vendor. I had an immense amount of things to make for that, most of them brand new designs and new products. I knew I’d never take the time to stop and paint in the middle of that—after all, it’s all about being creative every day—so I joined in a few days after the show was over and I’d had the chance to put things away and clean up my studio.
That gave me 12 days, still enough to do something. I’m pleased with the six paintings I completed in that time. To my surprise, two of them sold the day I shared them. I’ve interspersed them through this article in the order I painted them, with links to the posts so you can read more and purchase the original or a print if you’d like.
Day 18: Evening Wildflowers
For the prior painting challenges I exclusively used photos aside from a sketch or two of my cats or on the trail, and I planned using photos this time as well, knowing en plein air painting is chancy in February. I’ve been taking photos to paint from for years—in fact, that was my primary purpose for photography years ago until I purchased some different lenses and discovered photography on its own. However, after so many years of photographing for references it’s difficult to decide which ones I’ll use and then find them among prints and digital archives. Some images stay with me and they are the ones that get painted because I keep remembering them. Just prior to the September 2017 painting challenge I set up a folder and began adding photos to paint from whenever I took them or found them in the course of other things, and here and there spent some time looking up images I remembered.
Now that they are all in a folder it’s so much easier to plan ahead. Generally, I look at reference photos and begin building the image in my mind, deciding on size and medium and style so that by the time I get to actually paint I’ve done a lot of the visualization I typically do and can get right to it. Now I have an idea in my mind of what I’d like to paint that day, subject, medium, style, and I may have an image in mind or I can go to the folder and choose one. Sometimes I can’t decide, and I go to the folder and see what catches me.
Day 21: Summer Sunset, Robinson Run
Choosing what to paint
Each time I participate in a painting challenge I use the opportunity a different way. In the January 2017 30 in 30 challenge it had been a while since I’d electively painted “just because” and I felt out of practice and I wanted to give myself a warm up with those paintings and brush up on all the media I enjoy using and the ones I feel a little rusty at using, and get into the habit of following my ideas more frequently.
But in January as well as September 2017, I also set goals for variety of subject and medium to give myself more practice, and found those goals a hindrance for both painting challenges. If I found I kept wanting to paint landscapes but had painted a landscape yesterday I told myself to find another idea. I wanted to use pastel each day and I told myself to pull out all the materials and use ones other than pastel, to look for subjects that would work well for other media. I really, really wanted to do a detailed pencil drawing. By the time I found another subject and decided on the best medium for that image, the tiny bit of spare time I had for painting something not assigned or commissioned each day was gone.
Day 22: Facades, North Side Pittsburgh
In January I slapped my own wrists for that because it was preventing me from painting. If I had painted landscapes in pastel every day I probably would have learned something new about landscape painting—because there is always something to learn—and I probably would have improved my skills and confidence that much more. And been happier that I’d done more paintings.
After finding that I tended toward that goal again in September I was again frustrated at choosing images for most of the month, especially when I had to take off more than a week in the middle. However, once I resumed and looked at the paintings I’d done in the first two weeks, I decided that because I’d carefully chosen each of the images for the criteria of subject, medium and style rather than just because they were convenient, I really wanted to paint each one, put more thought into them, spent more time on them, and actually like them better than if I’d followed my other idea of just painting anything I wanted in any medium I wanted each day. I really like each painting. And there will always be another painting challenge, and, as time goes on, more time for me to paint.
Day 23: Chocolate Bath
The February 2018 challenge
However, this challenge was a little different. I had had weeks, even months, to decide what images I wanted to paint and had a few clearly visualized and couldn’t wait to get to them. All were in pastel and heavy on the landscapes, but I decided that after a month of making merchandise from clay and paint I could do whatever made me happy, and pastel makes me happy. I had also purchased eight new types of pastel paper and decided I’d use this challenge to try them out.
I also had another goal this time as well, focused on upcoming exhibits and requests people had made. I paint frequently from the Panhandle Trail, but keep passing up a conservation area I love but have pretty much neglected in subject matter, Kane Woods, and in fact a friend had come to my open house looking for images from there and I realized I have two snow scenes from all the time I’ve spent there. I chose three possible images and couldn’t wait to do my very first painting, “Evening Wildflowers”, the field of native plants that had been intentionally planted there, from photos I took a decade ago.
Day 24: Dusk After the Storm
Thinking of my upcoming exhibit on Panhandle I had several ideas and my second painting was “Summer Sunset, Robinson Run” on a new paper that I immediately fell in love with and a new style I’d been visualizing that worked well with the content of the image.
I’ve been photographing Pittsburgh intending to paint for years and pulled out some photos of neighborhoods, the hills, steps, houses that have stood for over a century, and finally painted one I’ve been remembering since I took the photo in 2014, “Facades, North Side Pittsburgh”. I used another new paper and another technique I’d been wanting to try, using the sides of my pastels to cover flat areas, keep detail to a minimum, only include the essentials.
Of all the art I have in my portfolio paintings of my cats are the most frequent, yet I can never seem to have enough cat paintings, and so many waiting to be painted from all my life living with cats, and nearly 40 years of living with them with camera in hand. But “Chocolate Bath” kept returning to me, little Mimi in her perfect shape, sitting for a bath at the end of a sunbeam which highlighted all her mahogany tones, the dark background intensifying the light areas.
And for all the years I paddled a canoe down Chartiers Creek I have dozens of favorite scenes that I never even had the chance to share on my daily photo site, Today. “Dusk After the Storm” is one that always stayed with me for its subtleties, and for how much a familiar place can look like some distant mysterious land. I used only two hues, navy blue and violet, but that’s what captured it.
There’s one more that I haven’t written about yet. My painting for Day 20 was an illustration for Klepto Cat Mysteries book 28, The ImPAWssible Mission. I include it because it was painted during the challenge, but I usually wait until it’s approved before I share it. As I did with the other two illustrations from other painting challenges, I’ll eventually write about the illustration and will link that article here.
Do you have a favorite? A favorite medium? Please share any feedback. I don’t paint just for me. I want to share the moment and share the idea.
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