Sometimes I work on only one painting at a time. It can help keep me focused and I can continue where I left off the next day without having to refresh myself on where I was and what I was doing on the piece.
Sometimes, especially when I’m working on a larger piece, I find it helps to work simultaneously on more than one piece at a time. It gives me a chance to have multiple ‘fresh beginnings’ each day. There are artists out there that bounce back and forth between MANY pieces every day - slowly moving them all forward. That method generally doesn’t work as well for my OCD brain though. I’ve heard that multitasking isn’t real – it’s just rapidly shifting your focus between multiple things and actually reduces efficiency. I prefer to immerse myself and focus fully on one piece at a time before switching.
HOWEVER, it is true that too much focus for too long dulls your senses. For me, a 2-3 hour stretch is when I do my best work. Beyond that, I can keep going but I’m not as sharply engaged and things start to become a bit sloppy. I think of a pencil as the analogy. When I first start, my pencil is fresh and sharply pointed. After using it for a while though, I have to take a break and sharpen the point to get the best results.
So, after an intense few hours of painting, I find the need to stop, take a break and do something different. It’s a great time to take a walk with my dog, Phoebe, do some yoga or get a snack. Even after that, if I’m ready to do more work after my break, I find I do best when I focus on something new. Sometimes it’s a completely different segment of the same painting. Sometimes it’s a different piece entirely.
That’s where doing preparatory work for another painting can come into play. That’s what I’m doing a lot lately. I’m currently working on a large commission – an 18x24 inch scene of a sunken boat in a dilapidated boat house on a mountain lake. It has a lot of detail and will take me months of focused attention to finish.
So, to keep myself sharp after my time of fresh concentrated focus on painting finishes each day, I take a break and then turn my attention to another project – sketching out future paintings. Just this week, I also completed the composition and initial sketch for my next small painting in between painting sessions on the untitled piece.
Esoterica: In contemplating the title for this message, the song “Begin the Beguine” popped into my head. Do you remember that one? It’s an oldie for sure, but I sometimes enjoy music from that era. What a perfect excuse to watch two of the greatest dancers of all time dancing to Begin The Beguine: Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell (joined for the finale by future senator George Murphy). Holy cow, could that man dance!
I currently have art on display at a few locations around the midlands. You can see more detail about the upcoming exhibits here on my website under SHOWS.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might enjoy this message or my art!