I’m sharing my first 5 paintings from January for the 52 in ’22 Art Challenge, as well as 5 lessons I’ve been learning along the way.
52 in ’22 Art Challenge
Recently, I wrote about an art challenge for 2022 that I created for myself, as well as shared with others. It’s a very flexible art challenge designed to encourage making time for painting and growing and experimenting as an artist. There’s a free printable prompt sheet (which you can find at the bottom of the post) and the emphasis is on having fun.
To read more about the challenge and find answers to all the FAQs, check out the original 52 in ’22 Art Challenge post.
Read on to see my January paintings and to find out what I’ve been learning so far in my own personal art challenge.
5 Paintings in January
I completed five paintings from five prompts in January. Many of the paintings could have checked off more than one prompt – a great option if you can’t complete all 52 prompts individually. If you’ve been working at a different pace, or haven’t even started yet – no worries! Remember, there are no rules.
However, because I like to paint on the weekends, and there happened to be five January weekends, I have five paintings to share. Let’s take a look:
1. Free Painting Class – Cow, Class by Miss Mustard Seed
I wrote a post in the first week of January about this painting already, but I will cover it briefly again.
Though I took many of Marian Parson’s (Miss Mustard Seed) free online painting classes to learn to paint, there were a few I had skipped including the class to paint a cow.
As I was feeling intimidated about painting again after taking such a long break, I felt that beginning with a painting class and Marian there to guide me would be a great way to ease back in. I was very nervous about painting an 8 x 10″ and a cow, but I ended up really enjoying the challenge and surprising myself.
I think there are some anatomy issues with my original drawing, particularly the back legs, and I struggled to get the back legs to look right. But I’m happy with some of the other shadows and highlights I got, and that it looks like a cow. As well, I painted some of my best wispy grass.
I probably won’t starting painting a whole bunch of cows, but it gives me confidence to try some other animals later on. And I definitely surprised myself with this painting.
2. Winter Scene – Study of “Winter Melody” by Brigitte Granton
As we were in the deepest part of winter, I felt it might be an ideal time to try painting a winter scene. I searched for some Canadian artists (Canada has lots of winter, after all!) with winter scenes to study. And I stumbled on Brigitte Granton.
Brigitte has some really lovely winter scenes, but she also has the most amazing sunsets. You should check out her website to see what I mean – and she also has many paintings for sale. I definitely plan to revisit her sunset paintings to study at a later time.
I settled on a painting called “Winter Melody” to study. This time I chose to do a 5 x 7 on a page from a vintage photo album. However, since I used gesso to prepare the paper and left a border of bare paper around the edge, the actual painting is smaller.
I loved the colour palette in this painting, since it was very different from most blue and green landscapes I’ve done. There are some sections of trees and the bushes sticking out of the snow that I’m not very happy with. But I enjoyed the attempt and I would like to try more winter scenes.
3. Mountains – From a Trip Photo of the Cabot Trail
I think this week I was feeling intimidated about trying something too different from my usual, and I went searching through old trip photos to find something applicable to a prompt. I ended up coming across a photo from the day we drove around the winding mountains of the Cabot Trail, on Cape Breton, NS.
However, the day was very foggy and therefore the photo was very dull and grey and didn’t inspire me as a colour palette for my painting. So I edited the photo to brighten it up and made it more saturated.
I feel that this painting is lacking a bit in detail and texture, especially in the mountains/hills. But I do think I was able to achieve depth and distance, at least in a basic way. And I enjoyed painting the guard rail and the road in the foreground which was a new challenge.
4. 3 x 3 ” or Smaller – Improvised Flower Painting
Recently, I found a very tiny vintage frame at a local antique store. And I wanted to try making a painting for it. So I decided to try a 2.5 x 3″ painting of a vase of flowers.
I looked at some oil paintings of flower vases as inspiration on Google, and then I closed my computer and improvised. For this painting, I only used two brushes – one to mix colours (the tiniest amounts!) and my smallest brush to paint tiny strokes.
I planned the colours randomly as I went, just based on what I like, and I don’t think the vase is the best colour or has proper highlights and shadows. But I enjoyed painting this little painting so much that the time just flew by. It’s definitely something I’d like to attempt again.
5. Bird – Angry Young Cardinal Photo Taken By My Husband
This painting was a challenge! I found a photo that my husband had taken of a rather unimpressed, wet, immature cardinal taking a bath in the bird bath, and thought it would suit the bird prompt well. And I was also excited about the challenges of light and shadows on the bird bath.
However, I found sketching out the bird bath shape extremely hard. I must have spent at least 20 minutes doing some light paint outlines and wiping them off over and over. Finally I decided it was good enough and that I had better move beyond that point.
I was decently happy with my blobby, impressionistic background of the hedge with bits of light poking through. And I think I did alright with the bird bath – at least it has form. But the bird was challenging. I hadn’t got the correct shape to begin with, and I struggled getting her colours and textures quite right. And because the water reflected the colour of the concrete, I couldn’t quite get it to look right either.
When I compare my painting back and forth with the photograph, I am not very pleased with the results. However, when I don’t look at the photo for a while, I can appreciate the painting and am quite fond it. In fact, it might be one of my favourite paintings so far.
5 Lessons Learned in January
Along with having five pieces of art to show for my efforts, I’ve also been learning about myself as an artist. Here are five lessons I’ve been learning:
1. Making Time for Art
One of the reasons I wanted to create a semi-structured art challenge for myself was because I was struggling with guilt. It felt like there was always a never-ending to-do list. And that choosing to paint was a bad choice, rather than tackling items on that list. I felt that choosing to make art for no reason other than enjoying the process was selfish. Or that I should only paint when my jobs were done.
Well, the never-ending to-do list is still there and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. But after just one month of painting once a week, my view of taking time to paint is changing. Now I just schedule in time for it, and work my to-do list around it.
I look forward to the regular time slot for painting, and the permission it gives me to shut out everything else that’s on my plate or cluttering my mind because it’s on the schedule. I enjoy the quiet time spent painting and always come away feeling a little lighter. It feels like I have gained something by stopping to make art, rather than giving something up. And I certainly feel less guilty about taking time to paint.
2. Making Art For Me
I do so many craft projects for my blog and occasionally it can feel less fun to document them as I work. Or when I view them from a business lens rather than just as a hobby. It can feel like it takes me out of my creative zone. And I wondered if I would feel similarly by making this art challenge public and sharing my work, or if I would feel added pressure.
When I designed the art challenge primarily for myself, it was about my own personal growth as an artist and doing an activity I enjoy. I did decide to share the challenge with others and hoped that we could share our work and encourage each other, making the world more beautiful – one piece of art at a time.
When I approach my art, I do have moments where I think, “this painting is going terribly. Am I really going to want to share this with the world?” But I’m not painting for others, or to sell – at least, not right now.
I’m completing these painting prompts to challenge myself and to grow as an artist. In addition, when I’m painting, I’m not approaching it as work, or trying to create something popular. I’m just being creative and spending time painting because it makes me happy.
After a painting’s finished, I choose to share it so it might inspire or encourage others. And if it’s a bad painting, so be it. I’m still learning and there’s plenty to learn from failure.
3. Struggles With Finding My Style
In totality, I haven’t done that much painting since I started in July of 2020. When I began learning how to paint, primarily from Miss Mustard Seed’s free classes, I was very much influenced by her limited palette, impressionist style, and small scale art. Those were things I liked and appreciated and tried to incorporate into my work.
I’ve since been following some other social media accounts such as Canadian Paintings on Twitter, and watching shows like Portrait Artist of the Year and Landscape Artist of the Year. And I like and appreciate a wide style of art and mediums. But when creating my own art, I tend not to stray too far from my starting point of small, muted, impressionist landscapes.
However, I find I’m often in conflict between the size of my small canvasses and the loose, impressionist style I’m trying to create. It’s difficult to keep a minimum of brush strokes on a small canvas, since a few large strokes can fill a tiny painting. But if smaller brush strokes are used, then suddenly the painting becomes more detailed.
And I do often find myself getting more detailed than I had originally intended. It’s a constant struggle to hold back and imply information rather than recreating every detail. Sometimes I can find a compromise between the two that I like.
I’m very excited to see how my style grows and changes over time between impressionist and more detailed. As well, I’m curious whether I will need to increase the size of my canvasses to accommodate that style.
4. Not Judging Right Away
I’ve written before about my tendency to overwork parts of paintings and continue fiddling. Sometimes I make parts worse, and then have to try to correct them. This is perhaps a result of painting alla prima, or all in one sitting. Adding more layers of oil paint just causes them to slip around on top of each other.
Lately, I have been actively trying to paint less layers overtop of each other, and fuss with things less. It’s also important to take a step back and get a different perspective.
But as I reach the end of a painting, almost without fail, I judge it quite harshly in comparison to whatever photograph I was using for inspiration, or original painting I was studying. I’m usually generally happy with it, but I also very readily point out all the flaws I can see. That can leave me feeling a little deflated at the end of a painting session.
However I’m also realizing, that when the original photograph or artwork is put away for a while, and I come back to view the painting with fresh eyes even an hour later, I view it much more kindly. I am more able to feel that I captured the idea or essence of the original and view it as a whole, rather than a sum of positive and negative parts.
Therefore, I’m learning that it’s best to stop fussing and overworking the painting, and to walk away. Put away the original inspiration, clean up, and take a break before judging a painting. Then look at the painting with fresh eyes. This approach of time and space before evaluating is making me appreciate my work so much more.
5. I Need to Continually Work At Challenging Myself
The purpose of my personal art challenge was to challenge myself and I created prompts accordingly. But yet, it’s still difficult to get myself out of the rut. When it comes time to choose a prompt and direction for my weekly painting, I get intimidated.
I often look at the list of prompts and think, “How I can bend the meaning of a prompt so I can still paint what I’m comfortable with?” Or “I’ll leave all the big and scary ones for the end of the year.” It’s far too easy to fall back into painting a variation of the same landscape over and over because it’s easier.
So I’ve had to continually force myself to be brave. It’s only a bit of time, paint, and a small, inexpensive surface to paint on. If it doesn’t turn out, I can try again. Or not. But at least I’ll have tried.
And while I haven’t perhaps chosen the most intimidating prompts on the prompt sheet for January, I’ve still tried 5 new things. (Though it’s actually more than that because they can each include several things.)
My new attempts include: a larger painting than normal, a cow, a bird, a very small painting, flowers, mountains, and a winter scene. Those are all things I had never attempted 5 weeks ago. And no, none of them are the most amazing piece of art. But I loved making them, and I’m proud of myself.
I cannot wait to see where I am at in another month, or at the end of the year, especially if I keep encouraging myself to be brave and take risks.
Check out my February paintings!
You might also like: DIY Art Drying Rack.
Want to Join the 52 in ’22 Art Challenge?
It’s never too late to join the art challenge. And it’s very flexible. You can get your copy of the printable prompt sheet right here!
And I would absolutely love to see some of your work. Share it with #52in22ArtChallenge and tag me @mixmeasuremake
I want to hear from you. Which of my 5 paintings in January is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,