It's fun to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while painting. Music is great, but sometimes I crave conversation even if I'm just listening to other people having it. Podcasts are my favorite, because they are bite-size learning opportunities, and I can tune in and out according to how much concentration my painting is demanding of me at a given moment.
One of my favs is "Artists Helping Artists" with Leslie Saeta and her cohost Margaret Sheldon. I've listened to them so much, that I feel like they are friends of mine.
In August 2018, while working on a several-week-long project, their broadcast reminded me of Leslie's bi-annual painting challenge called "30 Paintings in 30 Days" which runs in September and February. Even though I've given this a whirl in the past (but dropped out after a week), I was craving a chance to get back to some fast, daily paintings. I decided to go for it again. As soon as I finished my big commission, I began to prepare for the September challenge.
Now, the idea behind the challenge is to just help artists get back into the routine of getting into the studio daily and paint quickly, efficiently, and without fussing forever on a piece. Some of the benefits of it are: 1.) The artist's skills will often improve rapidly throughout the course of the month. 2.) The public will enjoy seeing the daily works, will start looking forward to seeing them, and might possibly"like" and "share" the posts on their own feeds, which could contribute to 3.) more notoriety and sales. Many artists, Leslie included, have claimed that this challenge basically lit a fire under their career.
Of course, I always bite off more than I can chew, so I decided I wanted to do 30-ish portraits (crazy!). I really felt like my drawing skills were getting rusty and needed a tune-up. Nothing challenges that part of the brain like trying to accurately draw a face. To prepare, I stocked up on art supplies, and started calling my friends and family and scheduling them for a sitting.
I really try not to be logical. I just take the leap and see what happens.
|My good friend Susan took a picture of me painting her. See me standing? Yeah, I abandoned the standing thing after the first portrait. I thought, I'm not going to stand for hours and hours daily. I'm too old for that.|
|Alisa posing for me at SullivanMunce Cultural Center in Zionsville. She entertained herself with a book. See me sitting?|
One by one, my victims (as I liked to call them) would sit in front of me and my easel, and do their best to hold still.
|Painting Kathy at the Lebanon Library|
|Sometimes I would look up from the canvas, and see this! Ha!|
|Kathy M. 14x11" Oil on panel|
Some were super excited, and some were not so much. Some were comfortable with it, and some were very nervous. I did my best to set them at ease and to make it kind of fun with music and conversation. Just the age-old tradition of sitting for a hand-painted portrait was an experience that none of them had ever had before, and many were intrigued to try it. I often paid the ladies in chocolate and/or a glass of wine, along with my gratitude for them contributing their time to the arts. They all know me and want me to do well in my painting endeavors.
Some portraits were of subjects that held very still, because they were from a photo!
|My copy of a painting at the IMA called "Madame Crozat de Thiers and Her Daughter" by Jean-Marc Nattier.|
|Progression shots of my painting of Big Red, based on a photo taken by his owner, Karrie Coddington.|
And one by one, these portraits, good or bad (minus the really horrible ones), were posted on Instagram (@conniehargittnobbe) and Facebook (@conniehargittnobbeart or my personal FB page Connie Hargitt Nobbe), and the image was tagged to the model. Each portrait drew enthusiasm from my friends and the models' friends, as evidenced by several Likes, Comments, and Shares. Most of the models were told just how beautiful they are (and they are!). Since most of them are my coworkers, or past coworkers, it was fun for everyone to watch for whose portrait was going to show up next. I started getting more and more volunteers as my skills improved.
|My night shift coworker of long ago, Jan! This tough girl has survived more than you can imagine.|
|Jan 12x9" Oil on linen|
This project paid off, big time. I greatly sharpened my drawing skills. I became more efficient in my packing, traveling, setting up and tearing down routine. I learned to take my iPad along for capturing a still image if my model was a self-professed wiggle-worm. I learned the best ways to pose my model, and help my model get back into pose when they drift. I refined my procedure for sketching, paint mixing, and then slapping in the colors.
|I usually started the portrait by sketching with pan pastels, due to its softness and erase-ability.|
|Sharla took a break from her chair to snap a photo of me painting her.|
I learned that I need sufficient light, or the painting suffers. I figured out which surfaces I liked painting on, and which brushes those surfaces required me to use, and how gooey my paint would need to be for both of those factors.
|Little eyes watching me...|
|Natale 14x11" Oil on linen|
|Lauri 12x9" Oil on linen|
I also re-discovered the value of investing a chunk of time in visiting with a friend in real life (as opposed to just online, or in brief snippets at work). This is easy to forget in our social media culture. The conversations I had with my sitters were lovely and memorable. It was wonderful to share on a deeper level our philosophies, dreams, fears, stories, jokes, etc. I gained more perspective and learned just how amazing my sitters really are. It was very good for my soul.
|Charlee 14x11" Oil on panel|
As stated earlier, some of the paintings were good, and some were not (I warned each of my models that I might bomb out). Because these were not commissions, and were for my artistic growth only, I have offered them for sale for dirt cheap (to help me recover costs).
In September, I achieved 20 paintings, and a handful more in October. Even though the 30 in 30 challenge is over, I know that I will need to continue to paint faces on a regular basis so that I can keep improving. I'm so glad I jumped into this crazy project before I could talk myself out of it.
|Elizabeth 12x9" Oil on linen|
|Painting Brian Wenning who was appropriately dressed for "PINK OUT! Day" in Greensburg, IN.|
|Brian 12x9" Oil on linen|
To all my friends and family who participated, THANK YOU!!! By sacrificing your valuable time, you helped me in so many ways! I had a wonderful time with you, and I hope you did too!