While driving back from Florida to a rather cold and chilly Nashville I was struck by the minimum 40 mph signs posted along I-75 in Georgia. Not sure who would dare drive that speed but apparently someone has at one time or another. Maybe in downtown Atlanta you’d be happy just to go 40mph? We were.
Doing the “minimum” to get to your best
The signs got me thinking about painting. SO many times in the art world well-intentioned folks implore you to do more, paint every day, use these colors, good heavens don’t use that brand – use this one, take this workshop if you want to learn how to paint clouds or trees or trains or whatever…
Maybe, just maybe, it’s more important to find your own personal “minimum” in order to get where you’re art is going?
Here’s what I mean:
Minimize your colors to maximize your harmony
Have you ever found the minimum number of colors for your palette? Every workshop I’ve been to has a new palette or a new must have color. If I just had that color I could paint like them. NOT true. Not unless you’ve also put in the minimum amount of “painting miles” that instructor has.
Here’s an idea. Experiment with your palette. Reduce your color options to the bare bone minimum and then slowly add colors one by one to maximize what works and the combinations you can create. Pro tip: Paint on paper taped to a panel so as not to use your panels. This is about experimentation, not painting pretty pictures. I painted the same set of trees in my backyard to see the differences I could achieve.
Minimize what you carry to maximize your portable studio
Before you head out to paint the next time, ask yourself, “How much of what you pack is for “just in case” rather than “I will touch this when I paint”? There is a difference. Invest a few minutes of your time to lay out all of the stuff you take into the field on your studio floor and ask yourself:
- How many brushes do I really need?
- You need less than you think. Three or four brushes and a palette knife is what I now carry. A few times I’ve even left all of my brushes home and only took my palette knife. As I’ve stood there with only the palette knife I had an anxiety attack because I started with all of the “what if” questions… but you know what? I survived.
- How much paint do I need?
- You need less than you think. Most people don’t “paint from a pile” but rather will squeeze out the colors they need once on site. I will load up my palette and walk into the woods, city, or wherever without taking any additional paint. I’ve been asked, “What if you run out of a color?” I smile because A, I’ve yet to run out in three years of painting on location and B, because I’ve played with my palette colors I know what works with what so I can harmonize as best I can should the need arise.
- How much paper towel do I need?
- How messy do you plan on being? The other day I was happy I had almost a full roll because when I opened my Strada the cerulean blue paint pile did a triple-half-gainer into my backpack sticking the landing. I was like, REALLY? For the rest of the outing I got blue paint – everywhere. Didn’t matter what I touched, blue paint. That’s what sleeves are for.
- How many panels do I need?
- How many paintings will you actually paint? Are you going for an entire day or a couple of hours? What size are you using? I only carry 2-3 panels leaving the rest in the car.
Minimize how many workshops you attend to maximize your own painting voice
Now before you begin hyperventilating, let me explain. How many workshops do you need to take in a year? When I first started, I took every workshop I could. But after a while I had way too many instructors competing for cognitive space in my head when I was painting. Ugh. Simplify. Find your own voice.
Now I only take ONE workshop a year based on what I’m trying to address in my personal growth. Be intentional on which workshop you attend. Know why you go. Write out the questions you want answered so you can season your conversations with them. Take notes. It’s your money.
((If you really want a good fundamental curriculum, I recommend the Virtual Art Academy. Here’s my product review of their content: http://jayholobach.com/product-review-the-virtual-art-academy/ ))
The Minimums get you to the maximums
These are just some of the minimums you should start exploring to get to your best work yet.
Feel free to add to the list in the comments below. Thanks for reading.
onwards and sideways,