The plan this year is to paint each day. That is to say I would daily begin and complete at least one painting, aside from any other ongoing projects. The format would be diminutive (which would facilitate several goals) and the medium would be oils. The compliment of brushes I’ve used for years would be supplanted by a new and very limited set of synthetic brushes. My initial order of 120 5x7 canvas panels wouldn’t last long. 5x7 is *tiny* compared to the much larger sizes I have always worked with. At the same time detail was not an overriding goal of these exercises, but rather putting into practice all the aspects of achieving a likeness (whether of plant, mineral or animal) with minimal effort and maximal artistic expression in as short a time as possible. Gaining confidence in my brushwork has been another long-term goal of mine: I‘ve had the tendency to overwork a problem area until it begins to attract attention from the area I had intended to be the focal point. The smaller format also works to my advantage in terms of time constraints: most of these paintings are accomplished in under twenty minutes. I can think of no other way to release myself from my unthinking attention to detail.
As there were several miscellaneous canvas panels lying around my studio I began to use them prior to January 2005, and a few found their way into the 2005 usage. To this day I have no idea where all those things came from. Gifts? Impulse purchases? There are also a few which are obviously larger - the result of needing to paint in a larger format. In any event, there are several which do not conform to the 5x7 format, and now you know why.
Some (many?) of these paintings are awful - an understandable outcome given my (especially initial) hesitancy in painting a human likeness, not to mention the many limitations outlined above. As time went on I began to release myself from the bondage of fear and concern for the outcome, and realize instead a pleasing artistic portraiture. This is not, after all, photography.
Most of the paintings make me happy, in addition to having provided me with invaluable challenges and learning experiences. In the end, whether a viewer receives gratification from any work of mine (or that of another artist) is of little importance given the vast array of tastes and human emotional states. What matters most to me is the confidence I have already achieved in my own work, and my marked improvement in human portraiture.
Update - April: after feeling stifled by the limited size, several larger-format paintings forced themselves to the surface. Also, I supplemented the 5"x7"s with 8"x8" and 6"x8", although the plan is to still work mainly in the more restrictive 5"x7" format.
Update ii - I'd like to mention the books which most inspired me to put "miles of canvas
behind me" - Robert Honre in "The Art Spirit". Craig Nelson wrote "60 minutes to better
painting" and still on my list is "Harley Brown's Eternal Truths for Every Artist" - several
times I've picked at it, but for some unknown reason haven't read it cover to cover. The
only reason I mention these is because they, together, helped me see what (literally) hundreds
of other art instruction books failed to demonstrate. Most art instruction books are introductory
and cover the same basic material (unintentional pun) without helping to reach past 'what kind
of oil paints / brushes / canvas fabric to use', etc.