Make a Painters Resolution

G. Daniel Massad's pastel paintings (above, Studio, 2008) are eloquent examples of thoughtful, tension-filled compositions.
G. Daniel Massad's pastel paintings (above, Studio, 2008) are
eloquent examples of thoughtful, tension-filled compositions.

I’m starting this year by reassessing my approach to how to paint and recommitting to more concentrated studio time. I don’t necessarily feel that I want to completely revamp my process, but there are a few old habits that I want to break and a few new ones I want to instill. I’ve found that the more people I tell about my plans, the more likely I am to follow through, so here are my painting resolutions for the New Year:

Quality compositions. I want to spend more time critically assessing my compositions before picking up a brush. I was inspired to do this after studying the still lifes of G. Daniel Massad, seeing how he deliberately chooses objects that will make the most impact in his works. He angles and positions the objects to control the sense of movement around them and any emotion that they imbue, making me realize that the more thoughtful the choices we make at this stage, the better our paintings can be.

Explore color. In my personal style and in my home, there is color everywhere, but I tend to shrink away from a diverse color palette when it comes to my paintings. I don’t want to necessarily incorporate more color just for the sake of doing so, but I want to better utilize the colors I have. I also want to see how altering values and taking more care with color mixing can help me achieve my ends.

Heidi Fowler's works embody a crisp sense of atmosphere that make the objects she depicts appear real. The space around the objects—power pylons in this work, No. 090.52.008—is engaging and visually interesting.

Heidi Fowler's works embody a crisp sense of atmosphere
that make the objects she depicts
appear real. The space
around the objects—power pylons in this work,
No. 090.52.008
—is engaging and visually interesting.

Work with the negative. Negative space is often an afterthought when I’m working on a piece, and I am still trying to remember the importance of giving the area around an object attention and visual weight. I want to come up with strategies to work better in this space, creating atmosphere and using texture and movement to communicate my ideas.

Don’t tighten up. When painting, the best results often come about when you aren’t chasing perfection. I want to create work that is thoughtful and well-executed, but I also want to spend more time in the moment, responding immediately to what I see and assessing a painting as it progresses.

What are some of your art resolutions for this year? I’d love to hear them, along with any advice on how I can reach my own. If any of the above resolutions resonate with you, check out our VIP Program for privileged access to the art instruction that can make a real difference in anyone’s painting practice. 

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

21 thoughts on “Make a Painters Resolution

  1. Hi Courtney

    I feel like we are in the same page… sometimes I would start a painting without taken the necessary time to create a good composition because I didn’t want to feel like I was wasting time and the result of course are no satisfying… That has to change if I want to create beautiful and appealing works of art and I thank you and American Artist for all the great inspiration, education and time taken to help all of us to get the tools to paint like the masters.

    Melvin Toledo

  2. Great resolutions, Courtney. I wish I was there instead of having the opposite need. I want to study less and pick up a brush more. I’m not sure what my reluctance is. I’m certainly not a slave to perfection. As Toby Keith would say ” A little less talk, a lot more action …” is what I need. Best wishes to artists everywhere and every media.

  3. Your column is thought provoking. I have had a goal for several years to become a museum quality painter before old age takes my skills. I have seveal master painters I admire, but I have not really assessed what those painters have in common. Now as I look, certainly each of the design elements and principals you have mentioned is on that list, but even more, I find the master painters that I admire truly create an immense emotional response in the viewing of their work. I think perfecting the elements and principals of design are the fundemental basis, but when an artist can touch an emotion in me that might bring me to tears or laugh or even silently smile, then I have viewed a master of the masters.

  4. Donnell Morgan- Artist I feel that rush when i’m about to do a painting, and sometimes i see the mistakes in the painting especially portraits of African Americans, i get frustrated that i can’t achieve the results and tend to not want to do portraits, in which i love to do.

  5. Hi Courtney,

    In January 2009 I took the “Harley Brown oath” although I amended it a bit. Harley suggests that you commit to drawing from life for 30 minutes each day for the rest of your life, and I committed to only the year and not necessarily from life because much of my work involves wildlife art working from photographs. 365 days later, I had made it, each day either drawing or painting for 30 minutes or more. There hasn´t been anything I have done that has improved my art the way this practice has. I highly recommend it to any serious artist.
    All the Best to you in 20 11.
    Kitty Harvill,

  6. Upon reading your article, I would like to suggest a few things that work for me. In the morning, I first take a few minutes to have my devotions which lightens my heart and clears my head so that my day is much less confused. I then make a list of things which are most needful. I don’t try to get all of these done in one day because they can take you away from your creative side. Then devote my attention to being creative and list the things I want to do in my studio or at my keyboard. It is important to know that if we let the cares of life dominate, we wll never be creative. We must all take care of the mundane, but not let the mundane dominate us and rob us of of time to be creative.

    We must balance responsibility and creativity and make sure that one does not obliderate the other.

    Sue Beyer

  7. Fabulous comments and blog!! I am new to this site and have been painting my entire life – anything from acrylics to watercolors to pottery, etc.. I love it all – except I found that oil takes too long (I’m impatient!). I struggle with pricing my work really badly. My resolution for this year is to get a grip on pricing. Also to realize that if folks could paint the way I do, they would do it themselves instead of ringing my phone off the hook! Finding value in my work is something I am going to strive to do this year, and from every year thereafter.

    Cheers to y’all and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! 🙂

  8. Aloha Courtney;

    I want to have more of a conversation with my work . . . more “conversation,” less “dictation.” That’s just ONE of the things I hope to incorporate in 2011! Mahalo for Artist Daily! Lots of aloha from Maui.

  9. Hi Courtney, I completely agree with your resolutions. I often hear of working moms saying that a career enables them to have more quality time with their toddler. To each her own, but I believe being there for the child, day in and day out, gives the opportunity to have all those spontaneous moments that cannot be planned. (I don’t want to start a discussion on the pros and cons of career moms. That is totally personal. ) For me, my resolution is to consistently pick up my art (brush, pen, pastel, fiber, needle, etc.) for at least 10 minutes each day. By doing so, I have found that I get “quality” as well as some unexpected and un-planned-for results. We all work so hard to have the lives we have…I want to “work” as hard to do what brings me joy EVERY DAY. Just food for thought…

  10. My resolution is to be more experimental and take more of an Art Lab approach. Instead of doing what I already know how to do, or trying to achieve a pre-determined ‘perfect’ illustration, I’d like to play with many more possibilities and ask myself, “What would happen if I used only one colour? stretched the shapes? Changed the quality of the line? Tried symbolic space instead of real space?” I think that experimentation has two effects … we can expand our powers by learning, and also imbue each work with a sense of fun and excitement because it’s been so enjoyable to create. I always like best the pictures in which I surprised myself somehow.

  11. To be more organized when I work. I clean up my painting and drawing area, but when Istart to draw or paint I make a mess of my stuido.

    To do at least one painting or dawing every other week.

    To spend no less then 90 min. each day working on my art.

  12. I’d like to make more time for art-why does everything else get in the way? Perhaps because I’m retired I just putter…but I am revamping my calendar to make being in the studio a daily thing. I also want to do value studies for each painting so I can screw up when practicing and not when painting! Lastly, I want to loosen up and not be so exacting when I paint. Those goals should keep me busy!

  13. Thanks Courtney, and Happy New Year!
    enjoy your thoughtful comments. My new years painting resolution is to draw DAILY and paint with more of a conversation with what I’m doing…less reacting.
    Bea Gust

  14. I’ve taken classes in ” one stroke painting” but that seemed too confining but I use some of it in my resolution is too remember how to use mediums such as floating medium and several kinds of gesso. I hope to have courage enough to try everything that I read about!
    I would like to try abstract but others might not understand 😉

  15. I resolve to set time per week, on a regular basis, when I will go to the easel and paint regardless of whether I feel like painting or not. I may do maintenance stuff around the studio, or count my brushes etc., but soon I will feel like doing some serious painting.