30 paintings in 30 days – that’s quite the challenge. One artist who was successful in taking on the challenge recently is Takeyce Walter. I featured one of her lovely pieces in January’s monthly curation and it occurred to me that it would be fascinating to hear all about the process of creating 30 paintings in 30 days – the ups, the downs, the struggles, the triumphs. And Takeyce agreed!
Before we hear from Takeyce, let me share a wee bit about her.
Takeyce Walter Bio
Takeyce Walter is inspired by the landscape and her work, in oil and pastel, presents the rural landscape of upstate New York, the Adirondacks, Cape Cod, and Vermont. Returning to painting in 2005, Walter made a commitment to finishing at least one painting a week and started blogging to help track her progress.
In addition to exhibiting her paintings online, she also exhibits in local venues in the Upstate New York Capital Region. Her art has found homes in many private collections across the United States, and internationally. Read and see more on her website.
Have a look at days 14-17 in the series (the bottom left is the one I featured in my January blog):
And now, heeeeeeere’s Takeyce Walter!
30 Paintings In 30 Days
I’d like to thank Gail Sibley for inviting me to guest blog here at “How to Pastel.” I am honored.
To start, I’d like you to consider these words, which are from one of my all time most relatable quotes:
“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”
That irresistible urge that Einstein speaks of is with me all the time, and if that urge isn’t met more frequently than not, things…let’s just say…don’t seem right. In my life, I wear many hats: wife, mother, artist, instructor, media producer, board member, chauffer, interpretative dancer (ok, maybe this one is an exaggeration – not in public at least). Juggling all the responsibilities and commitments that come along with those hats can sometimes be a challenge, resulting in the creation of art being put on hold as needed.
In late December 2015 as the busyness of the holidays came to an end, I was contacted by fellow many-hats-wearer, Kim Morin Weineck. Kim is a wonderful artist and a kindred spirit of sorts as our lives seem pretty similar; constantly working to balancing our art, work, family, being a mom, and the list goes on.
Kim mentioned that she’d be participating in Leslie Saeta’s project, 30 Paintings in 30 Days, and suggested that I do too. The project was hosted by Leslie Saeta on her blog where hundreds of artists around the world committed to painting and posting a new painting every day for 30 days.
At first, I was a bit apprehensive to commit to a daily art challenge, since I usually reserve the month of February to paint everyday for Creative February (an annual project I started along with fellow artist, Kate Edwards for our birthday month). Luckily, Kim’s persistence persuaded me, and I decided to go for it. I had decided that 2016 would be an artful year with a significant shift in the amount of purposeful time I reserved to focus on my work, so this was a fantastic way to start! (Thanks, Kim.)
As January 1, 2016 approached, I gathered my supplies, poured over my reference photos, notes, sketchbooks, and devised a plan. I was organized and energized to begin. This endeavor was not only a way to challenge myself, but also an opportunity to see and be inspired by the works of hundreds of artists around the globe. I was excited to be a part of a project of this scale and scope.
I decided early on that the works I produced would all be the same size (6×6”), primarily in pastel, and the subject matter would be anything that “moves me.” My thought was, making these decisions early on and being consistent with certain aspects would make the challenge a bit less challenging to follow through on.
My first piece was a scene that I had been thinking about painting since I first saw it last autumn. It captures a beautiful and rich marsh in transition from late summer to autumn. I fell in love with the rich tapestry of texture and color, woven to create an enchanting scene. I also loved the peacefulness I felt being there with color, light, and stillness as nature settled down.
For all the paintings (except one done in oil for a workshop demo), I used almost exclusively, UArt 400 sanded pastel paper, and a variety of soft pastels (Terry Ludwig, Mount Vision, Richeson, and Nupastel) in addition to a couple of pastel.
I found that picking a consistent time each day to work was also helpful. Truly, the time practically chose me. Due to those aforementioned hats, I ended up working in the evening after the little ones were in bed. Furthermore, instead of going down to my studio, I prepped and worked at the dining room table so that I could still be present with the rest of the family during the nightly rituals.
I have been asked many times by artists and non-artists alike “how long did that take?” My answer is always this: “It really varies. A painting is started from the moment the idea gets planted like a seed in your mind. From that moment to completion could be hours, days, weeks, or years in some cases. Fortunately for this 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge, I was able to access many of those little seeds and bring them to life each day.
Let’s talk about my process. Once I had most of my other responsibilities done for the day, I would set up my supplies at the table; my sketch book, a couple pencils, and a sharpie, my pastel box palette, and my pastel taped to a piece of Masonite board. I worked sitting with the board flat.
First, I would draw an idea (my seed) as a little thumbnail in pencil. The idea would often be based on a memory, and/or a reference photo of a moment I thought noteworthy. The purpose of the thumbnail sketch is to help me remember why I thought this particular moment was worthy of more exploration. If a piece passed the thumbnail sketch, then it moved on to the “notan” sketch. The notan (black and white value sketch) helps to distill the idea even further to the bare bones, or structure of the composition. This process helps to reveal any issues with the design, and if so, adjustments can be made to strengthen the composition. I have found this exercise to be invaluable.
Once the final composition is decided upon, I got to work on my pastel paper. I used a pastel pencil to sketch out the major shapes, then I used some Nupastels to block in color for an underpainting. Typically, I choose the colors of the underpainting based on what the final local color will be – most times choosing its complement. I love the exciting interaction between color relationships.
I liked using rubbing alcohol for my underpaintings, because it dried more quickly than water, and it also set the color. I also appreciated the interesting effects I got with that method; tendrils of dripping color, splashes, and blotches all made for an exciting place to start laying down my final color notes. I would work until the wee hours to finish most pieces, then take a quick snapshot with my iPhone camera to share it on the blog and other social media. When it was time to get some sleep, I was left feeling so…I think the word I use for my little ones is: “overtired.” The process of creating art for me is equally energizing, and exhausting but it’s always nourishing.
For the first few days of the Challenge, I would be halfway through my day and become so weary that I thought there would be no way to work late that night. However, something interesting happened, as my work time came closer, I became increasingly energized and happy in anticipation to get to working. I also drew inspiration and energy from viewing what artists were working on either on Facebook, or the 30 Paintings in 30 Days blog. It became such a soothing experience to be able to have this special time dedicated to satisfying that ever-present urge to create and appreciate art.
When I started each piece, I didn’t begin with an expectation to create a masterpiece, I was just happy to be doing what I love. Moreover, the idea of experimenting with different techniques and having fun was my paramount intention. I believe that mindset allowed me to work without fear, and the results, I feel, were some of the best work of my entire life. That measure isn’t based on whether or not the piece is saleable, but on how well the finished product recreates for me the feeling of awe I had when I first experienced the subject matter.
There were some nights where I struggled with what to paint – waiting to see what “moved me” didn’t work all the time. That created a new mindset where I tried to pick something that seemed unremarkable, and make something remarkable with it. I found that my confidence in composing paintings grew because of that. I felt at ease wielding my artistic license around – eliminating or adding elements as I pleased. It was great fun.
As the days turned into weeks, I was quite impressed with body of work lining up in my studio. I must say though, that there were a couple pieces I thought twice about posting for reasons I’m sure you can imagine, but in an effort to be transparent, and sharing the triumphs and tribulations alike, I posted them anyway. We all have good and not so great days.
I enjoyed sharing most of them on social media, and getting feedback from my fellow artists and art lovers. One comment struck me so much that I actually printed it and put it on my inspiration board in my studio. I’ll share a bit of it here:
“As a kid I used to traipse the woods around my childhood home, and as a young adult the hills of the Catskills and Adirondacks. Looking at your art brought me back to those times and feelings, and brought tears to my eyes.
You have so brilliantly and expertly captured the nuances of light, water, and wood that distinctly embellish the northeast landscape! I could inhale the moist aromas and hear the water melodies. Your art is incredible! Please don’t ever stop! I know it can be tough in a world like we have today, but your gift is immense and needs to be shared. Thank you for helping me remember…”
As an artist, I can only hope that viewers of my work can really connect and feel the deep veneration I have of the landscape. So when I read those words, I was completely humbled and honored to be able to provide that experience. Interestingly enough, that person’s comments were stirred by the pastel “The Marsh and the Moon” (see above – bottom right), which was one of the more challenging pieces I completed, and almost didn’t share. I am so glad I did. I may not have had the opportunity to hear from that wonderful gentleman. His, and so many similarly made comments, compensated for the bleary eyes and sleep deprivation.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the challenge. As the end of the month drew closer, it was somewhat bittersweet. Bitter in the fact that I would miss seeing the works by my fellow artists each day – I felt so connected to many of them and drew upon their drive for inspiration and motivation. Sweet in the fact that I now had a beautiful body of work for shows, as well as studies for potentially larger works to explore during Creative February and beyond.
This 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time because I’ve gained so much from the practice. As a person, I know that if I set my mind to a task no matter how daunting it may seem, I will follow through (with a little help of course) – a great sense of pride.
I am a more confident painter, trusting my instincts more readily than before. I’ve “met” new artists and seen some of the most beautiful and inspiring work from all over the world. In my own work, I can see tangible growth and it’s so exciting to continue to push that bar. Probably the best reward of all is the reminder that it is important to honor yourself and that irresistible urge to be creative. You and your art are worth it.
I would be remiss not to thank my partner in life, DW, for picking up a couple hats as I may have dropped a couple or 30, during that month! It’s important to have people around you who understand, and support your artistic endeavors.
Many thanks also to all of my supporters who’ve graciously given many of these little paintings great homes. Thanks again to Gail for allowing me to share my experience here as well, and to Leslie Saeta for hosting the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge. Last but not least- Kim Morin Weineck – thank you for putting on just the right amount of peer pressure! Maybe one day it’ll get us to France. 😉
I leave you with the last piece completed for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge:
Thank you for reading! Happy Painting.
Thank you Takeyce for sharing your whole 30 paintings in 30 days experience. I’m exhausted thinking about it!
Will you take up the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, if not now, then next January?
And tell us, which is your favourite piece by Takeyce? Interested in purchasing? Contact Takeyce at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment.
Until next time,
PS. I was delighted to discover that both Takeyce and I share Jamaican backgrounds!