This month I’m moving away from the painting-a-day. The daily piece has become a heartbeat to my practice but working that way for 90 days also helped me understand the limitations of my approach*.
Daily painting makes sure I show up. It makes sure no matter how I’m feeling (and weekends were especially tough) I go into the studio and I finish a painting. Occasionally I’d finish one and start the next one but rarely did I get into that rhythm.
Daily painting also lets me work through problems. I realized I didn’t know how to blend acrylic paints and so I started work on that very thing with the roses. I worked on it further with the halo daffodil series.
But there are also things I can’t explore in a 24 hour period.
For the dailies, I work on 8x8 squares. I love this size. It’s portable. It’s wholly doable. But there were some things I realized I couldn’t really do in that space. I felt something, really for the first time in my life, yearning to go bigger. It was interesting to feel that almost outside-of-me voice. I’ll keep an ear out for it in the future. I liked hearing it. I liked even more agreeing with it. It said, “You can’t explore the things you want to explore right now in an 8x8” square.”
I pushed off the voice a bit by doing single flowers with either no vase or a slightly abstracted vase, but it became especially true when I began working with the carved daffodil stamp. I unconsciously carved something perfect for the 12x12 space, which is a size I truly love working in and with.
The other thing daily painting doesn’t allow you to do is sit with choices. There just isn’t much time to really contemplate the way you do with longer pieces. For example, I’ve been working on a new piece for three days now and for much of that time, I’ve rearranged my elements on different boards and then just left them in my studio for me to pass by and get a feel for. Some were a quick “No.” Some where a “Maybe, let’s give this more time.” And now I’m looking over at the finalized composition waiting to be transferred and glued down to a painted and patterned board. It felt good to have that time to reflect on a piece before going forward.
The other reason why reflection time is important, especially from a learners standpoint, is that if it doesn’t work you can’t just say, “Oh, well, I had to finish it in a day.” When I do reviews and critiques of my work, I can only get so far with the daily paintings because I know half of the reason why I made one decision or another was because I had to keep moving. In the next of pieces I do, I will have time to think about the work and so when I make a decision it’s one I can push against later and it won’t crumble under, “Didn’t have time.”
Daily painting has a place in my life. I like knowing I have it as a tool. It helps me with discipline. It helps me explore ideas and circle around styles. It has a place in my practice, and I feel very lucky to have found it for both now and the future.
*Limitations of my approach by me and for me. These aren’t universally true limitations of the daily painting, which is something I love and has served hundreds of artists well.