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Too much time to paint? How to avoid overworking a painting

Lately, all we have is time.

I don't know about you, but I've had plenty of time to paint in quarantine! I've paintied everything I've had my eye on for the past two weeks and have about run myself out of materials in the process.

This reminds me that more is not necessarily better.

Rarely do I learn and grow by doing the same thing over and over again.

There can be such a thing as having too much time! When artists have too much time to work on a painting they tend to "noodle." This means they overwork it, redo passages again and again thinking they will make it better or get it right.

What happens when you overwork a painting is the freshness and life that was in it in the first 45 minutes has been deadened and dulled, colors have become mud, marks have been wiped out, and values lost.

You really dont need as much time as you think you need to make a good painting. As a matter of fact, its a good rule of thumb to stop 15 minutes before you think your done! Instead of reworking, step back and ask yourself; "Am I adding to the painting or taking away from it?"

One way to avoid overworking and build your skill as an artist is to challenge yourself with timed exercises.

I've often incorporated timed exercises in my advanced classes to get people to work more quickly and efficiently. When you have less time, you focus more on simplifying values and shapes, blocking in with the correct value and color and being more painterly.

I've been a daily painter for years, and can tell you that the more you paint the better you get, but you can also save yourself alot of bad paintings by speeding up the process with timed exercises.

I do timed exercises myself.

The way you do a timed exercise, is set up a still life, or get a view of something simple like a single tree, or the flowerbed in your yard in full sun, or the cat napping on the back of the sofa, etc. and have many small surfaces to paint (at least 4). Set the timer for 15 minutes and stick to it. Start with your draks and work your way to your lights. I usually lay out my pastels in 5 values from dark to light with two neutrals and a pop color in the middle.

When the timer sounds, move to a new subject and start it again.

After a few rounds, you will have sharpened your artistic eye to be able simplify shapes and values, and capture the scene Impressionistically, rather than perfectionistically.

One of my mantras that I repeat in classes is: "Be Impressionist not Perfectionist."

TImed exercises and daily painting will help you get there.

Please post any experiments you do at home. I'd love to see your timed exercises.

All the photos in this blog are 15 minute studies.

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Aline there’s a little camera icon in the comment box. Try that?

J'aime I don’t seem to be able to put the picture of my pastel on... I know I did it before but can’t seem to figure it out this time...HELP!!! 🙃


Hi Shawn! I see you’re doing well with these beautiful 15 min paintings! WOW 😯! I‘m certainly not there yet, although I did do a pastel within 1 1/2 hours, my fastest ever, with the guidance of Alice Anderson, while I was in Largo! Here’s a picture with my own frame (which I Mcguivered), in order to put in the art exhibit at the Community Centre, which was then shut down 😢! Looking forward to getting some feedback! Lol, Ali 🥰

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