Steal Still Life and a “Can Do” list

Thanks to Brian Johnson and his Philosophers notes videos I’m constantly trying to improve my working habits by changing a little bit throughout the week in hopes of a better outcome. The change that I’m putting into place tonight is my new “Can Do” list and a Steal still life.

One of the big ideas I got from Brian’s videos is to iterate your daily plan or routine. Any routine is never perfect so I change a little bit to try and make it better and hopefully the next iteration is better than the previous. This works well with my web developer mentality.

So my small iteration today is basically this. Make starting a work of art each day quick and easy. Cut down on setup time, have everything I need ready for any medium I choose. Plus, simplify my creation process by making a list of possible art scenarios, my “Can Do” list. Doesn’t sound like a very small iteration but actually it is.

To decrease my setup time I made a list of everything I need for each medium I use, Oil, Gouache, Charcoal and Ink. Then I separated the items onto a small bookshelf and each medium has it’s own cubby hole. This way when I feel like drawing at the recycle center in ink, I grab a couple things and head out the door, I don’t have to think about it.

Next is my “Can Do” list. One thing that has slowed down my creation process is thinking of what to do. I’ll sit for 30 minutes trying to figure out weather or not to do a still life, or a figure drawing, or maybe work on some anatomy, or go out and do a landscape, or… So, I created a list of things I can do. You may think this is limiting but giving my interests and mediums of choice the list would be small regardless. Now, I don’t have to think about anything but what I feel like. Tonight, I felt like painting a still life so I looked at my list and picked out “Steal Still Life”, which brings me to my next point.

I remember fondly doing landscapes with a great friend in Florida and I long for the day to have a painting buddy. But I also remember my painting buddy and I walking around an area for an hour trying to find a good composition before we would paint. By that time most of our energy was spent and the paintings would suffer. So tonight when I decided to paint a still life I also made the choice of subject easy, I stole one. So I crept into my neighbors home quietly with a ski mask on and… just kidding… No, I just went online to Daily Paintworks, a site where I sell my work, and chose another artists composition and used it. Thanks Thomas Ruckstuhl for your painting “Form Study”. With it I was able to setup some coffee cups of my own and get right to painting.

So ask yourself, what can I do to my daily routine to pour more energy into the work I love?

Imagine walking into a room with a still life already setup and all your materials in order waiting for you to just pick them up and get started. Then imagine the same room with everything stowed away. Which scenario garners the most motivation to paint?

Steal Still Life, photoshp threshold
Photoshop Threshold

So tonights painting went fairly well, or so I thought until I read this post by Ann Brown this morning in my inbox. Then I realized I could have improved this painting tremendously and set myself up for a better success with a small sketch or two before starting.

The above photo is a picture of the still life I setup with the Photoshop threshold adjustment applied to it. Ann Brown writes that most successful paintings have a 3/4 to 1/4 ratio of light and dark. I’m thinking this still life is about half an half.

Steal Still Life, adjusted darker
Adjusted darker

Here I darken some parts of the still life painting to see if moving the composition to a more 3/4 dark scenario works better, and actually I think it does.

Lots of good information today, and this was just a small 7×5 still life that I thought wouldn’t go anywhere. Instead I had a very successful day and learned a ton. Awesome!

Steal Still Life, subject
Steal Still Life, Setup

Session Details