Losing Focus: Hotel Breakfast Table Painting

One of the best things about our hotel stay is the breakfast in the morning. Leipzig really knows how to do it right and every other continental breakfast we have experienced pales in comparison. Unfortunately tonight’s painting didn’t go so well and I must attribute the difficulty to losing focus during the painting while at the same time not having a clear plan before the painting started.

It was late in the evening before I decided on a subject to paint and I remembered my interest in the shadows cast by the items on the breakfast table that morning. But, it had been a long day and even before I began the painting I was feeling rushed and under pressure to completely finish a painting. I wish I would have noticed this from the beginning, I would have calmed myself and maybe remembered some very important advice from Richard Schmid.

A work full of stuff but badly executed is wasteful. An incomplete sketch superbly executed is powerful!

Maybe to keep from losing focus in a painting I should have a ritual before I start any painting. Maybe a checklist to put my thoughts in order, to calm myself and create a clear direction. I don’t feel this is bad, I do it before each drawing session with 10 to 20 minutes of warm-up exercises. The warm-up drawing advice came from Jeff Watts with his online Atelier and I have found that it really increases my focus before serious drawing and prepares me physically for the dexterity needed to execute a drawing well. So to be proactive, I’ll go ahead and create this checklist based on some wonderful ideas from Richard Schmid’s book Alla Prima.

A Painting Plan Checklist To Prevent Losing Focus

  1. Why do you want to paint this subject?
  2. Do you have an analytical grasp of what you see?
  3. Do you have the skill to paint/draw the subject?
  4. Do you have time to paint/draw your subject?
  5. Where in the subject do you want to focus most?
  6. What medium lends itself best to the subject and the time you have?

Affirmations To Remember

  • Always give it your best shot.
  • Never demean your efforts due to circumstances.
  • Paint the things your most respond to.
  • A work full of stuff but badly executed is wasteful. An incomplete sketch superbly executed is powerful!
  • Work only as fast as the accuracy and content you wish to capture will allow.
  • Stroke per stroke, suppress the urge to speed up.
  • Getting things right is always more important than finishing a painting.
  • Speed = good choices, not throwing paint down fast.

Another wonderful painter I follow is Carol Marine. She is one of the biggest influences I have had in daily art. Today I read a response she gave to a question I posted on one of her blog posts. What is amazing is she has just affirmed the need for a plan before a painting. She says…

I also plan out the order of my strokes so that I don’t get mud. I think that’s the key – you’ve got to plan out the order of things so you don’t end up going back over and over things (aka “licking” the canvas, or “petting the puppy”).

I have seen “petting the puppy” more than once by other artists and I have done it myself and it is directly attributed to losing focus while painting. So, today I will put my plan to action and hopefully retain a good focus throughout the entire work.

The Breakfast Table Setup

losing focus while painting a hotel breakfast table

The Subject

my subject for the losing focus breakfast table painting

Session Details