• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Doing a study vs doing a finished painting...

Growth happens in the downtime, in the doodles in the margins, and the studies before the main event. When you do a study, you reach for something just outside your grasp, and sometimes you hit it, sometimes its just another growth experience.


Studies are an important part to learning to paint. In doing a study, you give yourself permission to try, and even fail, without penalty. Studies are a chance to make your mistakes on a small scale, before committing time and expensive materials to a lost cause. In my classes, we often do many studies to learn different techniques, and application methods.

Below is a sample from a Beginning Pastel student's work in yesterday's class at Dunedin Fine Art Center:


These studies illustrate different methods of applying pastel; scumbling, feathering/linear strokes, daubing/broken color, and blending. The small squares are the same subject, painted the same way on different paper samples to learn about paper tooth and pastel hardnesses. Here's a shot of some Beginning Pastel Students hard at work doing studies like the above.


I realize I'm a bit of a slave driver when it comes to teaching, but most of art is experiential. You can't be taught technique without getting messy yourself! You-tube does a good job of explaining, but nothing beats having a teacher there to walk you through the process step-by-step until you fully understand.


Studies are individual learning pods; mini-lessons in how to do a specific technique that you can repeat over and over until you feel you've got it. I may be rough on my students, but oly because I know from experience that it works. I'm rough on myself as a student as well. Here's the studies I've done just this week:


A week's worth of studies for me, three beach scenes, four nocturnes for a workshop, and six cloud studies all in oil with a palette knife on #Ampersandart boards

Each of these 13 studies taught me something, and all were done to help me learn how to manipulate a palette knife with oil more deftly to get small details. Doing studies is a way to enrich art education and help us grow. Even as a professional artist with more than 30 years experience, 20 of it teaching classes, I need to grow and learn as an artist in order to help others grow and learn. I hope to always be teachable, and growing as an artist, a mom, and a human being.


Do this at home!

Studies are easy and fun! You can get tiny canvases from any art supply store, even a dollar store. Make sure you have plenty and layout your palette and painting area ahead of time. Set aside a couple of uninterrupted hours. A quick trip to a nearby park will give you plenty of subject matter.

-bite off a small chunk! Don't try to fit too much into a study! Try painting just a flower instead of a whole garden. Or a window instead of a whole building.

-try something new! Don't do the same old thing! Try a new media or tool like a palette knife and oil, or encaustic sticks, or tiny watercolor set, etc.

-make it an adventure! Kitchen tables are nice, but the phone will ring, laundry will need doing, etc. Get out of the house and go someplace fun, just for an hour or two alone. Make it an "Artist's Date!"


Would love to hear about your ideas on studies and see any photos you wish to share below!


© 2020 by Shawn Dell Joyce.Shawndelljoyce@gmail.com