The following is part of a series of guest blog posts on painting from expert artist Jane Jones, who often contributes to The Artist’s Magazine (read her feature articles here).
Create More Energy for Painting
by Jane Jones
Making a good painting is hard work, and requires a lot of energy from the artist. Managing your energy while you paint is important because the more energy you have for making the brush marks, the better the painting will be. As you become fatigued it’s easy for the quality of your painting and your joy in the experience to diminish.
The loss of energy is usually in the details of how you set up to paint. The energy loss with any one mistake is small, but if you have several small losses, they can really add up, and the longer your painting session lasts, the worse the losses become.
Here are some considerations for the next time you get ready to paint:
1. Are you physically comfortable in your work space?
2. Are all of your tools within easy reach? If not, then before you settle in to paint, collect them so that you don’t have to fetch them as you need them. Then you can stay in the flow of painting.
3. Are your brushes and palette on your handed side? (If you’re right-handed, the materials should be on that side, and on the left side if you are left-handed.) If you’re reaching across your body to reach your brushes or palette, then you’re using up valuable energy every time you reach, and it’s a needless loss.
4. Where is your reference material in relation to your painting? The closer it is, the easier it will be to focus on the area you’re working on. I work on a drafting table, so my painting is tilted at an angle, and I can rotate so that it’s easy to reach to the area I’m working on…energy saved! And I place the photo right next to where I am working. If I’m working on an area that’s near the center of the photo, then I fold back the edges so I don’t have to look over information that isn’t necessary for the area I’m painting. And if that becomes too cumbersome, I use scissors make it work. I can always tape the photo back together or get another one. The photo isn’t going into an album for anyone to look at in 100 years. These photos are NOT precious heirlooms. Reference photos are a tool and what matters is that it works for you, not the other way around!
5. If you are working from life, then make sure that your reference material is easy to see, with little distraction between it and your painting. Pay attention to how you move your body and arms as you look from reference to painting, and then try to minimize it as much as possible. Make sure that your movements are comfortable and small. Every bit of energy you save can go into creating the best painting.
6. If you’re working at an easel, adjust it to work for you, and not against you. Your painting should be almost vertical. If your easel is leaning too far back, then you are wasting energy reaching in to paint on your canvas. Always be sure that you’re reaching your arm out even with or a bit below your shoulder. If you’re reaching above your shoulder, you’re losing a lot of energy and your arm will tire much more quickly than if you are working with proper body mechanics.
Examine your work space carefully, whether it is a full blown studio space or the kitchen table. Great artists work in lots of different situations, but one thing they all have in common is an energy efficient work space, and energy efficient working habits.
Bio: Jane Jones is an award-winning artist whose paintings have been featured in many magazines, including American Art Collector and The Artist’s Magazine. She is the author of Classic Still Life Painting. Painting is her passion, as is growing the flowers that she uses in her paintings.