Paint Less, Practice More

White objects, value study in watercolor, about 11x14 in.

White objects, value study in watercolor, about 11×14 in.

It occurred to me as I was teaching a workshop this weekend that new artists often take on the task of painting a “real” painting without doing any practice first. In fact, many don’t practice at all, but regard every painting as a formal painting that should turn out ready to be framed. It simply doesn’t work that way! In order to build a consistent quality of work, you need to practice more and not put pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece every time you pick up a brush. That should not even be your intent when you are practicing, you should instead be focused on learning and being aware of your strengths and the areas you need to address.

For example, in the study above, I was focused on:

– creating a sense of volume and form through the use of values

– comparing object placement and size to get the correct proportional relationships

– allowing the paint to form lost and found edges based on the way the shadows and light interplay with foreground and background

– paint flow and control without sacrificing fluidity

Did I get a masterpiece out of doing this? NO! of course not, but I did get a study that has an interesting composition, properly drawn forms, correct value relationships and a pleasant color harmony–so, all in all, a decent painting. Again, not a masterpiece, but a good painting.  The point is, the more frequently you paint in practice mode, the more consistent you become in building the skills that will make even your practice paintings good, viable studies that show that you have a firm understanding of the principles of painting. From there, you can continuously build and develop your skills and as you do, many of these principles will become second nature. That is when you will truly start to see improvement in your confidence and what will allow you to become more creative.

Every painting you paint will never be a masterpiece, but the more practice you do, the more consistent and confident you will become. That will allow you to produce your best work and get the most satisfaction from the process of creating.


7 Responses to Paint Less, Practice More

  1. Eleanor says:

    One person’s practice piece is another person’s masterpiece. I have enjoyed following your FB page and your blog posts and seeing your sketches. They have motivated me to start ‘a drawing a day’ program. No reason I can’t take 30 minutes out of each day to draw something and work on my foundational skills.

    I also like reading about your classes. All in all I’m glad I stumbled upon your e-presence.


  2. Tom Jump says:

    Hi Anne,
    I was wondering what color(s) you are using for these studies and the underlay that you do on some of your watercolors. Is it Payne’s Gray or a mixture of others? I am fairly new to watercolor and also enjoy your posts here and on FB- wish I lived close enough to take a workshop or class.

    Thanks, Tom

  3. kullaf says:

    thank you! glad to be of help

  4. kullaf says:

    Hi Tom, in this study, I used mostly Primary Blue and a bit of burnt sienna. In some of the others, I used Payne’s gray, it depends on what mood I’m in at the time–you can use any color or combination of colors as long as: a) they are dark enough to create a visible range of values and contrast, and b) they are harmonious with one another if you are using more than one color, that is, the color they create when combined is pleasing. I currently offer a perspective drawing class online and am definitely going to be offering more online course in the future. I will announce them here as them become available, so maybe we can work together that way. I also will be offering “office hours” for students who wish to schedule Facetime or Google Hangout sessions with me for private study. Fun stuff coming up down the road. 🙂

  5. Tom Jump says:

    Thanks Anne, good info. I am decent with perspective but could always get better. Can you shoot me some info on that drawing class? I think I read that it is drawing with a charcoal stick. I did classes years ago using a black Conte crayon- I would say I was moderately successful. Since then I’ve improved with perspective but I still don’t feel confident in that broad application of values which I need to work on and I think will help my painting.

  6. kullaf says:

    Sure, I just sent you an email with registration info, thanks for checking it out!

  7. Anita says:

    It’s ridiculous how we can put this pressure on ourselves. I have made it my new year’s resolution for this year that every piece is just for practice and maybe, just maybe one or two might be worth selling! practice makes perfect!

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