There is no better way to get better at something than to practice. When people tell me I’m talented, I want them to realize that talent is merely the passion for doing something that lasts long enough to actually get good at it! We’ve all learned how to ride a bike and drive a car, and we learned by practicing.
But practice doesn’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. In fact 10 minutes can make a big difference if done regularly. And in learning to paint, it’s much more effective to paint several small paintings from start to finish than it is to spend that time to paint just one painting.
And so we come to the 10 minute painting exercise, which Carol Marine introduced me to in 2009. Carol loves to paint apples, and I do too. But I’ve used this exercise on lots of subjects and in lots of mediums. It’s my go-to approach when I don’t know how to paint a new subject.
Let’s go through the exercise using apples as an example. For this article I used apples in oils and in pastels, mandarin oranges in oils, and an apple surprise at the end. Most likely it will take you longer than 10 minutes the first time you try this, it was that way for me, and that’s OK. You can either finish each one as fast as possible, or stop after 10 minutes on each one. I guarantee after you do four, you will be a lot faster. Remember to scrape your palette between each 10 minute painting. If you don’t, the paintings will get more and more muddy as you go along.
Here are the steps;
1) Set up your apple (or other subject) on a piece of colored paper, or a surface with no pattern. The more colorful you make this, the more fun it will be! Shine a light on your subject to give you a nice shadow.
2) Prepare your tools: lay out your paint colors, lay out your brushes, get your paper towels ready.
3) Divide your canvas or paper into 4 equal parts by drawing a line down the center and across the center. This immediately means you aren’t painting something to hang on the wall, you’re doing an exercise. Try it, you’ll find that this approach frees you up to just do it, and to experiment.
3a) You may draw your apple before you start the timer when you are trying this out for the first time.
4) Start your timer.
5) Paint your apple (draw it first if you haven’t already done so).
6) Stop when your timer goes off.
7) Congratulate yourself! The goal was to finish quickly, and you did it!
Now scrape your palette and do it again. You don’t have to do it again on the same day, though if you have the time, it will be easier to remember what you wanted to do differently.
You can even do this exercise on a tablet with one of the painting applications. The prep and cleanup will be lots easier! Apples above painted in ArtRage.
Check out the previous blogpost for a video demonstrating how to draw and paint an apple.
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Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.