Early in my painting career, a professional artist I admired advised me to paint every day. He said it was the only way to get any better. I promptly ignored his advice and continued to coast as a starving artist for years.
But in 2006 all that changed. That was when I discovered daily painting—a movement that encourages artists to create one small painting nearly every day, and sell that work online. Before daily painting, I was in a frustrated rut. But after that epiphany in 2006, I not only improved my skills rapidly, I launched a successful art career and a website, dailypaintworks.com, that is quite popular. And now I am proud to say I am no longer starving!
While the idea of painting every day may sound overwhelming, let me assure you, there are no specific rules or requirements. Really when I say you should paint “daily,” I mean you should paint “often”—but “Artists Who Paint Often” wasn’t catchy enough to jump-start a whole movement! Sure, the ideal might be that you paint every day, but not many of us can commit that much time to art, so we must settle for as often as we can. The daily-painting movement encompasses artists who paint daily, weekly, monthly, or intermittently. What ties these artists together, and qualifies them as “daily painters”? The simple fact that they strive to paint frequently, without getting bogged down by perfectionism, procrastination, or any of the myriad things that keep us out of the studio.
The benefits of painting often are huge, as are the advantages of making small art (though not necessarily only small). We learn just as much about composition, color, paint application, value, and so on in one hour with a small painting as we do toiling for weeks on a larger one. And because it only takes an hour or so, we can fit it into our busy schedules and we aren’t heartbroken (and/or broke) if it doesn’t work out. We can then apply the knowledge—and, if our painting is a success, the confidence—we’ve gained to larger work.
“Small” art means different things to different artists. A lot of daily painters (including me) are in the habit of doing a lot of 6 by 6-inch paintings, but this is absolutely not a requirement. Some artists feel more comfortable turning out tiny paintings, some like larger surfaces, and still others do a wide variety of sizes, depending on the subject, day, and so on.
There are also no requirements in terms of media or subject matter. Daily “painters” use anything from oil to pastel to collage to charcoal and more. They paint a huge variety of subjects from still lifes to portraits to cityscapes to cats to completely abstract and beyond. The great thing about doing lots of little paintings is that you can try everything! You can do three little oil paintings of apples today, a portrait of your dog tomorrow in pastel, two versions of the tree in your front yard in watercolor the next day, and on and on. The fun never stops!
Most daily painters use a blog to document their progress and showcase their work. A blog is easy to set up, free, and a cinch to update. Even if you blog just for yourself, with no intention to sell, the connections you can make with other artists are amazing! Too often, we artists work all day alone in the studio, with only our spouse, kids, or animals to give us feedback. And while they mean well, they don’t always have the most encouraging things to say. My (least) favorite from my husband is, “Is it done?” But I get comments on my blog every day from people (mostly artists) who give me positive feedback that keeps my spirits high.
These connections have also brought about huge opportunities for my career. I got my first invitation to teach six months after I started blogging and now get so many, I have to turn most of them down.
In a time when galleries are closing all around us, the Internet offers a new, exciting venue for artists. Our potential market is the whole world, while galleries rely mostly on foot traffic. We are more in touch with our buyers, which gives us a better understanding of our market. Best of all, we skip the high gallery commissions and so do our buyers!
This book is a chance for me to share with you all the valuable lessons I’ve learned from painting daily: from materials to color mixing to ignoring your brain to photographing your art to marketing yourself online. I’ve also included lots of examples of other artists’ daily paintings to inspire you as to what’s possible in terms of medium and subject matter.
I have been happily painting daily since 2006 and don’t intend to stop. If you are serious about improving your skills, increasing your sales, and expanding your network of artists, I recommend you do the same!