Today marks my 4 year anniversary of doing art daily. So for this big milestone in my life I’m going to look back and see how I’ve grown as an artist.
When I began this journey 4 years ago I knew that I needed to track my progress. Still to this day I find this one of the most motivating things that moves me forward and keeps me working. I can’t stress enough the importance of tracking your progress. How would you know how far you’ve come unless you know where you’ve been? Honestly if I wasn’t consistent in tracking my progress I would feel most of the time that I’ve gotten nowhere in these past 4 years.
The chart below tracks my goal. I want to reach 10,000 hours of art by the time I turn 50 years old. I don’t think I will reach 10,000 hours by that time but the greater goal is to do art every day for the rest of my life without stopping. With this blog I log my art daily, how long I spent doing art and other basic data. So I’ve completed 2175 hours of art in 4 years. On average that is 1.49 hours a day. I expect that number to go up this year because I’m finally able to commit to 2 hours a day consistently.
Another great reason for tracking data this specific is looking at trends in my progress. If you look at the chart you can see a huge dip in my daily art time from July 2014 to mid 2015. That tracks 10 months where I barely did more than the my minimum of half an hour of art a day. This is obviously a lack of motivation and I can look at that time and see why. I can also see what pulled me out of my slump.
When I look back at June 2015 I see that I became very motivated after watching a video from Jeff Watts with a no nonsense look at art making. This video for some reason pulled me out of my slump and motivated me to do the most hours in a month that I had ever done. With this chart I see that, and next time I get into a slump I can use the knowledge to get back on track.
Now I think I’ll take a look back at how I’ve progressed over these four years. On January 26th 2013 I was fed up I think, I can’t remember exactly what I was feeling that long ago but I was sure that I wasn’t in a good mind state. I’m a creator and if I’m not spending some time each day creating then I’m usually in a bad mood.
I did re-read the post for my first day though and one thing that stood out was my comment on focus. This is something that I’ve been commenting on consistently over the 4 years. Focus is one of the most key aspects to doing any art. If you are focused and your mind is in the right place everything goes well.
At the beginning I was really analyzing my drawing, value, color and edges. I still do that but I don’t write about it nearly as much as I did when I started. You can tell that I was really motivated at this time to move forward with my art making after a 5 year drought of doing no art at all.
Also at this point I didn’t tell may people of the commitment I made to myself to do art every day for the rest of my life. Like most commitments anyone makes there is an introductory period where it is more likely to fail then to succeed. I remember thinking of a good movie quote which is now part of my author bio on ever post.
“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”
At this point, my dream was very fragile I felt that if I spoke it to everyone that it would shatter. It wasn’t until about a year into my journey that I began to speak about it more.
1 Year Anniversary
Wow, so much happened this first year. I painted a lot of still life works then realized that my drawing needed to improve so I focused on that for a long while. I attended many life drawing sessions, and even started the Bargue book course and focused on the “site-size” method. I worked mostly in charcoal for a long while and only occasionally did some painting.
Eventually I was doing more painting than drawing and ended out the year with over 350 works of art completed. I had come very far in just 365 days. I tried many different mediums, built my own studio and created a habit that will last with me forever.
During my first anniversary I was focusing on self portraits and this one is heavily influenced by David Leffel. But, about 5 months earlier and about 8 months into my journey I did my first figure in oil from the live model. I really need to do another figure in oil from life now so I can get a good comparison.
Two Year Anniversary
My second year started out very interesting. I was rebelling against subject matter and didn’t care what I painted or drew. It was all about the process. In fact many of the paintings at the beginning of this year were completely random. I would randomly pick a room in my apartment, then randomly pick a direction on a compass. Then, in that random room, facing that random direction I would paint something, anything.
I painted our recycling garbage next to our front door waiting to be taken to the dumpster.
I painted a towel hanging from our shower in the bathroom.
I painted the light cast on the wall behind my desk.
And one day my randomizer of location and direction had me staring at closet doors. What in interesting and ominous painting this turned out to be, I don’t think I could ever have come up with it on my own.
Eventually during this year I began to do nothing but still life. I stopped going to life drawing for some reason and began to lose motivation in art daily. I believe at this time I was focused more on going to Crossfit and working out which I don’t regret at all. By November I was in the best shape I had ever been in my entire life. I’m very proud of this photo.
It would have been nice if I could have thought of a way to keep my art time higher during this time but I learned a lot from these months. I ended that year with still life work and continued into the next year with it as well.
Three Year Anniversary
My third year started with still life and me doing the minimum amount of art daily, but it ended as one of the most productive years of my art journey yet.
I even got better at painting the figure from life.
Then I became enthralled in painting these paper balls. I did a series of 20 or so paintings where I would take paper, and randomly ball it up, then suspend it carefully with string in front of a black background and paint it. I have to say that these were really fun and a great lesson in value.
Then in June of 2014 my motivation exploded after watching a video from Jeff Watts with a no nonsense look at art making. This was the first time ever that I found a teacher with a pragmatic approach to art making. For years of schooling I had complained about teachers inability to even do the art they wanted me to learn. With this one video a huge, massive, light bulb flared to life above my head and I put real planning into my art making. Even though I no longer subscriber to the Watt’s school online I still think this video was a pivotal influence in my journey. If you are an artist and struggling on how to get better watch this video, it will give you the tools you need to take your art to the next level.
So at this point my art exploded, July 2015 was my most productive month ever and I’ve still not able to match it. I had tons of motivation and a clear direction with steps laid out on how to get there. And what I started off with was a ver rigorous drawing schedule.
One absolute fact that you can never ever forget is that if your a representational artist and want to be able to reproduce what you see you MUST LEARN TO DRAW WELL. Drawing is the basis for everything I do, and everything else falls apart if my drawing is bad. So with that in mind, I bought a ton of newsprint paper picked up some new charcoal pencils and got to work on the basics.
I also mixed in a lot of still life painting because I didn’t want to lose any progress I made with painting. Because at this time in my journey I found another aspect of art that I wish I would have learned years and years ago.
Art is not like riding a bike, if you don’t do it, you slowly lose your skills in it.
Art is complex and takes all your skills and knowledge to do well. If you don’t continually hone those skills you will eventually lose them. Now, I didn’t do art for 5 years, but when I started up again I didn’t start at ground zero, I still had some idea of how do to something. But I definitely felt a huge decrease in my ability. If I would have just kept doing art daily over those 5 years, even 30 minutes a day I would have been well ahead of where I’m at now. So remember this, and never stop, it is too important and too easy to do just 30 minutes a day.
By the end of this year I had drawn a ton and I got into the habit of going to life drawing once or twice a week. I eventually came back to paint and the figure but I had a lot of struggles with it but by this time I found that I loved the figure and would make it my focus for a long while.
Not sure what was happening on my three year anniversary I’m sure I didn’t have the focus I needed for that figure painting because I’ve done much better figure paintings earlier in the year.
Over the past year my major focus has been on the figure. I started out with anatomy drawings and study the progressed into long term drawings of the figure and eventually long term paintings. Every now and then I will do a still life or something different like when we go on vacation. But mostly I have a focus for the figure.
I like to think that I’ve gotten much better with painting the figure. The painting below is one I’m tremendously proud of but it is not an accurate comparison to my some previous paintings as time plays a big role in quality. I’ve spent a ton of time on this figure so far.
So for my 4 year anniversary I spend two hours painting then I go out for pizza. I love pizza. I don’t have it often because I like to be healthy also, but it is a nice celebration for a huge milestone in my life.
I’ve learned so much over these four years and I dream of the day that I write my 10 year anniversary post. I have high hopes for my art in the years to come and I would love to see as much growth in the next 4 years.