We’ve all heard the advice: Draw or paint daily. It’s good advice for any artist, any time, and for struggling new artists like me, it’s the best advice we’ll ever get. But no matter how good the advice may be, it’s only going to be helpful if we follow it.
I usually do some drawing or painting every day — with weekends excepted — but then there are those times when I get frustrated, discouraged, or simply too busy to spend much time at my easel. Just getting started can be a challenge at times, especially if I’m a bit rushed, or if I’m not quite in the mood.
What I’m learning, though, is that the less I want to paint, the more important it is for me to get to my easel and get to work. If I want to get better, I need to practice, and the more mornings I spend at my easel, the more apt I am to improve.
During those times when painting is hard, I try to have fun with it as much as possible. I play mad scientist and do crazy things with my paints. I push myself so far from my comfort zones that I’m happy just to survive. I do little practice pieces. In as many ways as possible, I try to take away any pressure I might feel.
It works. Without even trying, I find myself discovering new, or better, ways of doing things. I begin to regain a bit of confidence in myself, and sometimes then I can go back to a painting that didn’t come out quite like I wanted, or a painting that’s been sitting unfinished for a while.
As I’ve been working my way through lots of ups and downs with my oil painting, I’ve been going back and fixing up a few paintings. I’m still not fully satisfied with this one, but I think my mornings of practice have led to a bit of progress. Here is the current version of Autumn Lake:
I finally got my rocky bank on the left to look like I wanted, and I finished the right side of the painting. And, oh, my goodness! Do you see the tree trunks on the left? Yes, I painted those gorgeous trunks. Forget the ones on the right. They’re still clunky and chunky, but at this point I don’t care. I am in love with those other ones. I played around, tried different brushes, different consistencies of paint, different techniques. And I found what works for me.
Meanwhile, I’ve lost most of the reflections in the lake, so maybe the next time I work on this I can re-do that area. Until then, I’m happy to see improvements in the painting.
Art is always an on-going process, and a lot of projects may be on-going, too. I intend to keep painting, and most of all to keep practicing, because I know that while practice won’t necessarily make me a perfect landscape painter, it will make me better. Practice really does lead to progress.