What Did I Learn Today?

Practice painting is often frustrating. Sometimes I feel I’m wasting a lot of canvas as well as wasting a lot of time. The canvas panels I use can be wiped away, painted over, and re-used later, or they can simply be replaced with new ones. Time, however, can’t be replaced.

I’ve learned, though, not to fret about the time I spend playing with my paints. As someone once said, time we enjoy wasting isn’t really wasted at all, and I have to believe that’s true when it comes to art.

I like to keep my practice sessions loose and carefree, an opportunity for me to make mistakes, try things over and over, and mostly to learn by doing.

What I’ve been working on lately, as you know, is buildings — learning to draw them, getting the perspectives right, and getting the right proportions, too. I’m doing much better with my drawings, despite my disappointment in Urban Art Guide, which goes to show that we can learn from disappointment and frustration as well as from our happier moments.

Of course, one reason I want to learn to draw buildings is so that I can add them to my paintings, and, in time, paint cityscapes with multiple buildings. And, another thing I’ve learned is that drawing and painting may be related skills in theory, but they are very different in practice.

So, while I usually roll my eyes and groan a bit when I finish working on a practice piece, I stop and ask that one important question: What did I learn from this?

Here’s a quick practice piece I did yesterday morning:

What Did I Learn

Even as a practice piece, it’s not yet finished. Tomorrow — if time allows — or at another practice painting session, I’ll add more details to it, but I’ve already learned a lot from doing this painting, so I wanted to go ahead and share a few thoughts.

What have I learned?

  • I’ve learned that I can draw basic buildings now — at least the main structures. I’m not very good yet with placing windows, doors, or other decorative elements. Some of that will come through detail work, I hope.
  • Light and shadow really do make a difference.
  • I actually can create a believable pathway — not by drawing the path itself as I’ve done in the past, but through negative space. In this piece, I painted the grassy areas and left the pathway unpainted until the end.
  • In addition to using a blending brush to create the effects I want in the sky, I can also blend trees in the distance to give them more atmospheric perspective.

Much about this practice painting went wrong. My original drawing — and acrylic underpainting — included a third building on the left. After several attempts, I wiped it away, then painted in lots of trees to cover up the mess. Maybe I can count that as one more thing I’ve learned: If all else fails, add trees. Sadly, though, the trees and bushes overpowered the beautiful shadow I’d painted on the left side of the little shed.

Of course, I’ve learned, too, that developing new art skills will always require lots of practice. This painting doesn’t look like much, but it’s a definite improvement over buildings I’ve painted in the past. Seeing improvement is encouraging. It just takes time.

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