I’ll admit that I’ve had some painting sessions that ended with me being unhappy in the last couple of days. I was tempted not to share anything from those days on social media until I remembered a book I’d been reading called Show Your Work, which Ali Abdaal recommended on his Youtube channel.
Of course, I had been showing my work long before I read this book, but what stuck out to me was “think progress, not product.” It hit me that even the stages in my pieces I consider ugly, that even embarrass me a little, are part of my progress and teaching opportunities. If I only share my work when it’s in a favorable stage, I’m doing my audience a disservice.
The key phrase here is teaching opportunity. I don't put myself or my art down in these posts. Instead, I objectively explain what I think is wrong with the piece, what I think I did to make it that way, and what I might try to fix it. Even if you don't share your work on social media, I encourage you to look at your own pieces in the same way.
What I hope you take away from this, whether you share your work or not, every part of your process is equally valid. Don’t get discouraged because maybe your piece suddenly looks worse to you. Keep working on it, and eventually, it will look better again.
Below are a couple of examples of pieces I was unhappy with and how I improved them.
I recently ordered a Fredrix Red Label canvas. This canvas is rougher than what I usually work on. I bought it because I'm planning to do an impressionistic piece. I learned from Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art that this particular canvas is more suited to that style than the Green Label I'd been buying. This is because I'm probably going to want to use heavier globs of paint when working in this style, which the Green Label, which is linen, wouldn't be able to take.
You want to select a lightweight, smooth canvas for realistic pieces that rely on fine detail. Some cotton canvases work for this, and linen is excellent. Go with a rougher canvas for more impressionistic styles, impasto techniques, or painting with a palette knife. Anything that says heavyweight is your best bet.
It’s difficult to do fine detail on a rough canvas. Your lines won’t be smooth. On the other hand, a smooth canvas may be too lightweight to take all the globs of paint required for certain impressionistic styles. I’ve also heard it’s hard to blend smoothly on a rough canvas but easy on a smooth one. Blending isn’t such a concern when doing impressionistic work, but it’s a big concern when doing realistic work.
Below is Lisa's video on which Fredrix canvas is best for your painting style, which is where I got most of these tips.
I watched Youtube vlogger Nathaniel Drew attempt to follow Pablo Picasso’s routine from when he lived in Paris for two weeks. He gives a summary of the routine starting at 1:06 in the video.
Drew comments in his video that starting his day at 11:00 am, as Picasso did, made him feel sluggish. I can see myself having a similar experience if I try this routine. I’m rarely still in bed after 8, even if I’ve been up late. Some people left on the video that Picasso’s schedule wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary Spanish culture.
While I do really like the idea of painting when it’s quiet and no one’s around, staying up until 3 is out of the question for me. I also would find it difficult to go to bed right after working. I’d be too amped.
Picasso and I have in common that we both like to ease into our day instead of getting to work immediately. We know Picasso wanted to ease into his day because he gave himself three hours of leisure time before getting down to business. I hope he included some exercise in these hours because I don’t see it anywhere else on his schedule!
Unlike contemporary artists, Picasso wasn’t obliged to do social media or keep a blog or YouTube channel to promote his work. Most contemporary artists couldn’t devote as much time as Picasso did, even if they wanted to paint. Picasso probably also didn't have to do laundry or cooking.
Painter of portraits and wildlife