This summer has been a whirlwind of events and family-fun with very little time for painting watercolors. I get rusty and a little distracted when I don’t paint regularly, so I look for efficient ways to shorten the path to my brushes. Here are six tips to paint more when time is short, because there’s a great deal of joy & happiness mixed into all those pigments, and we have to actively and deliberately go after it. 🙂
Six Ways to Paint More When Time is Short
- Pre-Draw your work. Plan your next series, and get the drawings or rough sketches of what you plan to paint laid out in graphite or watercolor pencil – whatever you use to set drawings under your watercolors. When time is short, and you get 20 minutes to paint, grab one of your already-drawn, ready to add pigment starters, and lay in a few color washes with that first (or last) 20 minutes of the day.
- Use Watercolor blocks. There are many manufacturers of watercolor paper blocks, and they’re available in a variety of surface finishes and size formats. (I like Arches, Strathmore, Hahnemuhle, Bockingford, Sennelier and Canson) If you’re unfamiliar with watercolor blocks, they’re just like a pad of watercolor paper, with glue along the edges, all the way around, to hold the stack of paper sheets tight against a stiff board. This saves you the time it takes to soak, stretch and mount the watercolor paper before starting to add wet media. When your painting is finished, and completely dry, slip a letter opener or the tip of a paintbrush handle under the short section left unglued on the block, and gently slide it along the perimeter of the paper to release your painting from the block.
Watercolors are Simple Supplies
- Keep your watercolor supplies in a tote bag. One of the best things about watercolor is that they’re compact, and portable. Put 5 or 6 supplies together; a field palette & brushes, a shallow rinse cup, a pencil and a watercolor block in a tote bag, and take it with you. Sketch quick watercolor studies in the bleachers at soccer practice, or at a family gathering from an armchair. I take the bag with me from room to room; in the evenings, I sketch and paint while my husband watches TV or works on his laptop so we can sit close on the couch and happily wind down the day together, each in our own way.
- Communicate your intentions. Let the people in your life know you’re planning to fit mini-sessions of painting into your daily schedule. If the folks around you understand the plan, they can be encouraging when you pull out your supplies for 30 minutes of art-making. (They might even join you!) It’s a lovely way to participate when the family is gathered around a table in the evenings. You’ll still be listening and engaging, as you dabble in your watercolors. And you’ll be modeling good habits to the littles in the room. You may find that participation in conversation while you work helps lighten the grip on your pencils and brushes, because the part of your brain that would normally fret over accuracy is busy with conversation and connecting to your peeps. This kind of distraction, like audiobooks, helps us stay loose and fluid in mark-making.
- Schedule your time. Even if the day is frantic with To-Do’s and events, you can schedule a block of 20 minutes to paint and draw. If the day looks too full, plan to sketch just before bedtime, or while eating lunch. But schedule it, on the calendar, in ink, so you can pre-motor-plan and have your supplies ready. Tuck reference material in your watercolor pad. Think ahead to what you’ll paint, and don’t let social media, TV or email overtake your fruitful, solid art plan.
When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur…. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts. ~John Wooden
- Join a friend. Appointments keep us accountable, but when the appointment is with yourself, and the plan is for fun painting-time, it’s too easy to talk you out of it, because emptying the dishwasher and weeding the garden nudges priority. If you make an appointment with a friend to paint for two hours a week, you’ll be more inclined to stick to it, because you’re each counting on the other to show up and make it happen. Just a few hours a week will lead to finished paintings and some lovely social time with a fellow artist.
What tips and tricks do you roll out to insert painting time in a busy schedule? If you have practical methods that might be useful to others, share them in the comments. And if you try either of these six tips, let us know how they worked out for you.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!
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To get good, it’s helpful to be willing, or even enthusiastic, about being bad. Baby steps are the royal road to skill.Daniel Coyle