Painting against time

clarinet player
Klezmer musician sketch
8.5″ x 12″
Watercolor on Arches #140 cold press
© 2014 Margaret Sloan

I tend to paint slowly. I spend hours getting the drawing right before I move to color. Then I paint deliberately, thinking about each stroke. Sometimes I think too much,  standing in front of the easel, brush in hand, looking and daubing.

Eventually I start feeling trapped, like some old hen pecking away in a chicken coop. I’m afraid to move from my comfort zone because I’ve got too much invested in a particular painting. Yet, with no forays out of the barnyard into the woods, well, where is the exploration? Where is the learning? Where is the joy? All I’m doing is laying eggs.

But I want to fly.

Perversely, sometimes limits can free an artist from gravity. Rather than spend hours on a painting, I decided to give myself some parameters: half hour for the drawing and an hour for the painting. I wanted to see what I could accomplish in a short period of time.

What a great exercise! It forced me to think in terms of big shapes, clear color and correct value. I let go of trying to have a “finished” product and made choices quickly. And I was quite surprised at how instinctive painting has become.

Most valuable tool in this exercise: The kitchen timer.

4 thoughts on “Painting against time

  1. Good idea! I’ll have to try this. I spend hours trying to get the facial expression or whatever right on my comic panels when someone is going to look at it for a whole 20 seconds. I’ll give this a go : )

    1. Hi Trent
      How about 20 in 20? Get a mirror, make a face in it and spend a half a minute looking at it, then spend just one minute drawing it from memory. Do this 20 times. It would be sort of like gesture drawing from memory.

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