In July I embarked on a new art challenge - to paint 50 paintings in 50 days. All the paintings would follow a theme, creating a cohesive body of work. The result would be presented along with the works of other bay area artists in an exhibition in September. For my theme, I chose “Simply Loving What Is Here,” capturing the beautiful nuances in color and light in everyday scenes. My idea was to go about my daily life searching for these moments and translate them onto the canvas for each 6in x 6in painting.
I thought it wouldn't be too challenging to do the 50 paintings - after all, I paint almost every day already. However, I had not factored in that the 50 days would overlap with moving apartments and several trips out of town. My painting time was eaten away by packing, unpacking, traveling, and setting up my new studio, and I quickly fell behind.
Although I didn't get any painting done during this time, I did find a lot of inspiration for my work. I wanted to capture scenes from daily life that had a quiet beauty to them and that were meaningful to me in some way. That meant I found inspiration while going about my everyday activities. I would become inspired for a new still life by the shapes of the ingredients I prepared for a meal. While organizing my new apartment, I was enchanted by how the evening light pooled on the wood floors. On walks around my neighborhood, I admired the houses perched on steep hills and the shadows created by their architectures.
I wasn’t always inspired by these simple moments. In the past, I never thought that my everyday life was worthy of painting. I thought I had to seek beauty outside of my day to day, such as by going to a beautiful place in nature, to find inspiration. But my experience over the past few years as a painter has taught me that we can find inspiration in small moments. With careful attention, we can all access beauty in our daily lives and gain a new appreciation of the word around us.
After organizing the new apartment and returning from my travels, it was time to start painting. The first few paintings went well, however I couldn't help but feel anxious. I had so many paintings left to do, and I was already so far behind. I set aside time in the evening after work for painting, but many nights I felt too exhausted to paint at all. I was also doubtful that I could finish in time or that my work would be worth looking at. Caught up in negative thoughts, I wasn't even enjoying the painting process anymore.
Finally, I reached a turning point. I stopped and took a step back, realizing how silly the whole situation was. Painting is my passion - it is what makes me feel joyful and alive. In my fear, I had forgotten the whole point of painting: to connect with inspiration and enjoy the creative flow.
I realized I had cut off this flow by over-committing and setting unrealistic goals. I assumed that I would do a painting each day, not considering the move and other obligations, and so I felt intense guilt when I fell "behind schedule.” Once I realized this, I knew what I had to do: clear my schedule and set reasonable goals that I could meet each day. I removed all extra activities from my schedule and gave myself the time and space I needed to complete the paintings in time. I also set the goal to focus on the joyful feeling of the painting process, rather than worrying about the quality of each piece or the paintings that I still had left to do.
Once I embraced these changes, the paintings began to flow effortlessly. I realized to my surprise that I no longer felt "too tired" to paint. While the guilt and anxiety had been sapping my energy, I now painted with a sense of lightness and joy. I found I could easily paint two paintings each night without falling into fatigue.
The last two weeks of the challenge were a time of beautiful creative bliss. I began to view each painting not as something meant to be perfect but instead as an experiment in light and color. In the last week, I painted 12 paintings on a rush of creative energy. It was more paintings than I'd ever done in such a short time, but it felt more effortless than in earlier weeks. I even realized I had somehow managed an extra painting!
Painting 50 paintings in 50 days taught me so many lessons. It was a great exercise in overcoming the inner critic, I just did not have time to waste, or to feel down on myself, or to get lost in negative thinking. I had to learn to ask the inner critic to step aside and let me go to work. Through this process I also painted compositions and settings that I would not have painted otherwise. Oftentimes I did not have the "perfect" reference photo, but I painted it anyway because of the time constraints. To my surprise, some of these ideas turned out to be among my favorite paintings.
You can see all 50 (plus one bonus) paintings on my website here, on my vlog, or in person at Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, CA until October 9th, 2022. These paintings capture beautiful everyday moments that resonated with me. I hope they resonate with you as well.
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