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Friday, January 3, 2020

My first painting of January


My recent works have been in shades of white, and that’s sadly not about winter.
A problem hidden behind a wall can upset the most carefully-crafted schedule.
One of the problems with following other artists on social media is that you can really feel out of step. Earlier this week, many artists were posting their “last painting of the decade.” Immediately on the heels of that, many started the Strada January 31-day challenge.

Daily painting exercises are great, especially for plein air painters. When the world is a swirl of grey, it’s sometimes hard to remember why we paint. Here on the 44th parallel, we’re up to about eight hours of daylight right now. The temptation to wrap oneself up in front of the fire and read can be overwhelming.
My last work of 2019. I call this Fifty Shades of White, because it's difficult to match whites. On the other hand, the new woodstove is a great improvement.
Think of daily painting exercises as playing scales. No matter how excellent your teachers are, you won’t get better if you don’t practice. You stop being anxious about the results and concentrate more on the process.

Routine is not our enemy; in fact, whatever makes you work regularly and most productively should be embraced. That’s the message of the book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

As much as I admire the January Strada challenge, I never play. I invariably find myself mired in a big home-repair project at the New Year. I’m done with Christmas, and I’ve had a few weeks without students. I can tear things apart and make a colossal mess, something I can’t do in the summer when the push to produce and sell work is on.

My first painting of January started by pushing things around in my studio. I'm doing it in thirds, and it took all day for me to empty the first third.
In December, we had a new woodstove installed. As often happens, there was a problem hidden in the wall.  That meant plasterwork and an unscheduled repainting of the room.

I’d also planned to paint the floor of my studio. The prior owner and her grandkids had painted flowers on it years ago. It was sweet, but the radiant-heat floor had developed a crack. Its surface was battered with years of hard use—fine for a studio, but not for selling paintings.
Primed and painted and then I toddled off to bed. More of an oyster than a true white, I think.
Most fine-art painters I know are also good wall painters. We know how to use brushes, and are used to prepping substrates. It makes sense to DIY, and we’re lucky to have this useful skill set. But, like everyone else, we have other things we’d rather be doing. For me, that’s more painting, but with a smaller brush.

There’s no dawdling for me this weekend. I’m teaching in here on Tuesday morning. (If you’re interested in joining this local class, there’s information here.) There’s nothing like a deadline to speed things up!

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