Light Bulb Moments

For my birthday recently I received an easel light.

It’s fantastic. It came with two very solid bases: one that clamps to the edge of the table and one that clamps to the top of an easel. My table easel is a bit light for the weight of the lamp so I’m using the table clamp, but I can see myself using the easel clamp on my floor easel if I ever have a studio. I can also see that a battery-operated version to take to life drawing classes would be very useful.

Having decided to make as many Christmas presents as possible this year, I chose to paint the cat of one recipient (but can’t show you in case they visit this blog). I did the underpainting some weeks back but it had sat around untouched since. I’ve been wondering if all the artist videos and books I’ve been looking at would influence how I worked, and I got my answer when I finally sat down to do this painting. In less than two hours I had 95% of it finished.


Considering that the last painting of that size took me … maybe eight hours… it’s quite a change. What made the difference? First, the aim to not put any paint down that wasn’t correct. Second, to not concentrate on one area but put down the colour I mixed in all the places it appeared. Third, to use more brushes so I didn’t need to wash them until the end. All which added up to less faffing about overall. All it took to finish off the painting was less than an hour’s worth of adding fine details like whiskers and making small corrections.

Those three intentional changes were thanks to the videos of James Gurney and Chelsea Lang. I wasn’t trying to paint like they do, just adopt what seemed efficient in their painting practise. I suspect the Flower-a-Day project also helped by improving analysis of colour, hand-eye coordination and simply waking up the arty cells of my brain.

It was a huge boost of confidence, but I have no expectations that the next painting will be as fast. Besides, I’m going to paint that quickly, I’ll need to line up a LOT of new subjects very soon. I have two mini pet portraits waiting, and a still life idea I want to explore, but that won’t occupy me for long. I need to put a lot more intention and planning and, well, I’ve had some thoughts on that, too.

For me, deciding what to paint can be a black hole that suck the enthusiasm out of me. I feel my subject must be worthy enough to spend my limited time on. I also worry about doing art that other people have already done – about not being original – as if anything is original these days! But I have more time now, and even if what I’m painting isn’t ‘worthy’ or ‘original’ it’s still honing my skills. Every painting is practise.

And every painting is thinking time, too. When I weave I’m thinking about what I want to weave next, and I used to plan the next book while working on the one I was writing. It’s a cascade effect I need to set in motion for art. Though maybe I am already. Now that the Flower-a-Day has been going for nearly a month, I’ve come up with a plan to continue daily painting next month, but with a new twist. But that’s going to need it’s own post.