Oil on linen - 4x10"
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How often do you ask yourself: "What should I be focused on daily in my quest to improve as a painter?"
I just got back from teaching a 3 day plein air workshop in Kimberley, BC. On the last morning, I did the above demo to set the students up for an exercise that I have found to be enormously valuable in my own learning, and one that almost always creates a breakthrough for students.
The challenge was to begin by drawing out a composition that was no more than 10 shapes, and then to paint the painting in 50 strokes or less. (Not many takers on the "less" in either department.)
As I was explaining the ground rules, I had a terrific conversation with one of the students that went something like this:
Her: "What is the point of this exercise?"
Me: "What do you imagine it is?"
Her: "Well, let's see, the 10 shapes is probably about learning to simplify my composition."
Me: "Uh huh."
Her: "And the 50 strokes or less is about..... ummmm - mixing up lots of paint so that I have enough when I need it, and I guess I'm going to have to be very focused on getting the value and color as accurate as I can before I put each stroke on the canvas."
Me: "Yep, that about sums it up."
She thought about all of this for a moment or two, and then asked, "Soooo, why don't we always do that?"