Painting Progression

For the past 4 years of daily painting I’ve focused a lot on time. I believe, that in our society today, most artists have a misconception of time when associated with art making.

Look at the painting progression of any artist. Look at the works they are known for and then look at their earlier works. How long did it take for them to get to their mature work? Then think about your own art, your own progression. Are you willing to put in the time?

Lucian Freud

Here is a painting progression for Lucian Freud from 1947-1968. Over 21 years these 4 paintings are a good representation of his gradual change of style into his most iconic works.

Lucian Freud, Girl With a Kitten 1947
Girl With a Kitten 1947
Lucian Freud, Girl With a White Dog 1951
Girl With a White Dog 1951
Lucian Freud, A Young Painter 1958
A Young Painter 1958
Lucian Freud, Naked Girl Asleep 1968
Naked Girl Asleep 1968

Now, think about this span of time for a moment, 21 years. Think about yourself 21 years ago. Where were you? Were you even doing art at that time? I was barely out of collage at that time and the art I was doing was completely different than what I’m doing now.

But most artists approach this idea much differently. I’ve done it myself. We think, “I really like Lucian Freud (or insert any artists name here), I would love to paint like him/her”. So we immediately begin to imitate their mature style, or try to. Even the master of this style didn’t get to it until after 21 years of constant work. How could we possibly hope to match them in just a few months or years?


Here is a progression of Rembrandt’s work over 33 years.

Self Portrait 1628
Self Portrait 1639
Self Portrait 1654
Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul 1661

I love this progression. Don’t worry about the dates, just look at Rembrandt’s face. He was young man in 1628 and in 1661 an old master.

33 years from now I will be 75 years old. 33 years ago I was only 9 years old. There is a perspective here that we all need to recognize. I try to remind myself of it whenever it is suggested that I “should” do this or that with my work. As if I’m at the end of this journey, as if I’ve come close to reaching my true potential. My journey is just beginning still.

At the end of this month I will have done art every day for 4 years straight without fail. I look back at the work that I was doing 4 years ago.

Chris Beaven 2013

And what I’m doing now…

Painting Progression
Painting Progression
Painting Progression, setup

I can’t imagine what my work will look like in 20 or 30 years. Honestly, I can’t tell you how excited I am to continue on this journey to mastery. I can wait the 30 years. I’m prepared to wait, and work that long, every day for the rest of my life. This journey is going to be amazing!

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