Last month, a number of us undertook the 31 in 31 challenge, namely painting 31 pastel paintings in 31 days all of which we posted on the HowToPastel Facebook Group (have you joined yet?). Turns out there are HUGE benefits from such an undertaking.
For me, the biggest thing was getting back to painting. Wrapped up as I am in blog writing, online course creation, and other online activities, I was finding it harder and harder to find, no, to make time to paint.
This challenge and the fact that we were all sharing our daily outcomes in the Facebook group, motivated me and kept me accountable. I have to admit I did miss a couple of days but that didn’t matter. In the end, I had a pile of inventory, many of which will soon be in my galleries. I have included some here and you can see more on a previous blog post. (They are for sale and you can still purchase them unframed! Just pop me an email at gail@howtopastel if you’d like to know more.)
Another benefit was feeling sooooo good about the actual act of painting everyday – an activity that engages mind, body, heart, and soul.
It was obvious that the gains of this 31 in 31 challenge were worthy of a blog post so I asked participants what the benefits were for them. Lists came streaming in from 39 of the challenge participants!
On review, I could see common threads emerging and after sorting, came up with 12+ benefits. The star benefit was the value of community, something I hadn’t considered when initiating the challenge but which soon became apparent. And what was really super was (is!) how international the group is. The joys of the internet!
I’ve listed the benefits below with words from participants. I also asked them for a piece they felt best represented the challenge for them: these I collaged (most are cropped in some way) and have interspersed below.
31 in 31 Benefit #1: Every painting doesn’t have to be perfect
Because we were creating a painting a day, there’s usually not time to get a perfect painting done. And that’s just fine. Better to get pastel to paper than not!
“An experience in discipline, not perfection. ‘Pastel to paper, pastel to paper’ is my newest mantra.” Merryann
“It made me realise that everything DOESN’T have to be ‘perfect’ and that if I had a day where it just wasn’t working I shouldn’t beat myself up about it.” Barbara H
“The main benefit was just to do something every day and forget about failure or success. I fall into the trap of not doing anything unless I’m sure it will turn out. A successful piece is not necessarily the one that looks most like a photo.” Joanie
31 in 31 Benefit #2: Created a habit and discipline to paint every day
Being disciplined to create is half the battle when it comes to painting! The challenge meant we had to paint everyday over a period of a month which, as it turns out, is the necessary time to create a habit.
“It was hard but cool to paint every day (almost every day). It made me be more disciplined.” Evgenia
“[The challenge gave me] the discipline to paint daily – I got up between 5-5:30 am and tried to work 2 hours. And I am continuing that practice.” Sally
“Though I had to drop out at Day 16 due to a family crisis (ongoing), I enjoyed the challenge that forced me to actually do some art EVERY day!” Yvonne
“So while I didn’t complete a piece every day….some took three sessions…I did paint and I did post everyday except for one sick day. That was the biggest benefit!” Andrea
“It made me realize that I actually ENJOYED the discipline of doing something, anything, each day. I tried not to worry that it wasn’t my best work and to remember that we are all at different places.” Kate
“[The benefit for me was] the self discipline to paint regularly and move from hobbyist to artist.” Louise
“I learnt the discipline to prepare eveything the day before: subject, photo, paper and pastels. Rearrange studio, starting daily painting.” Gina
31 in 31 Benefit #3: Procrastination Banished!
I’m not sure why, but it sure is easy to procrastinate when it comes to painting. Once we’re in the studio and creating, there’s no stopping us but before that happens, let me at the laundry!
“Since I have difficulty getting started it gave me a reason to get going (almost) every day.” Wendy
“I realized that if I just consistently blocked off one hour or more a day I could accomplish way more than I ever imagined I could, so I need to stop making excuses about not having enough studio time. It’s my own fault if I don’t get stuff done.” Floribunda
“It has been the push to get me painting daily, something I have known was important but was always better at procrastinating than doing.” Helen
“Because of illness in the family I had not been painting for a few months. This challenge got me back into it, motivated me, and even if I was unable to do a finished one each day I did a lot.” Brenda
“I wasn’t able to complete the challenge but I pushed myself with whatever I had at the time- cheap pastels, coloured papers, 20 minutes.” Maureen
“I learned to get to the easel no matter what.” Melissa
“This really pushed me to paint more.” Jane
“I had let busyness in other areas of my life get me off track of painting every day. Although I didn’t have something to show every day, I definitely tried to do something each day and it got me back on track.” Harriett
“[It gave me the] opportunity to paint all the things that I have put aside for ‘one day’.” Sandra
“This 31 in 31 challenge helped me to finish that stack of unfinished work and also complete some new work. I often compose an intended composition in my head and then take forever to finish, almost hesitant to put the pastel stroke on paper in case it does not come out as in my head -even with the thumbnail line and value sketches.” DMae
31 in 31 Benefit #4: Freedom to explore
One of the things I felt was important to stress over the challenge was the opportunity to do things you may not have had time or the inclination to do – try different pastels, different papers, different applications, different styles, different subjects. And I was delighted to see how many pushed themselves into new territory!
“[There was] a freedom of trying different styles from abstract to landscapes, portraits to tonals.” Merryann
“The thrill that I felt every morning thinking about how I might experiment with color and style, and push myself beyond my comfort zone without worrying if it will be frame worthy [was a huge benefit]. I love the variety of work that I have done!” Gill
“It made me more experimental, freer to try new things…braver in fact.” Andrea
“I experimented with different techniques of building up colour as opposed to just relying on blending.” Celeste
“It forced me to come up with ideas and different approaches.” Kate
“Trying to challenge myself to stretch, either in subject, time spent, or maybe limited color palette, etc.” Barbara A
“Stepped out of my comfort zone by trying to do looser things and different things. Did not feel pressured to make a ‘good’ painting; but just to do something.” Brenda
“I tried some things that I probably would never have tried.” Debbie
“Felt free to experiment on different papers and with different brands of pastels.” Melissa
“This really pushed me to experiment more with different papers.” Jane
“Trying out new ways of painting, new subjects: As we had not much time, I have been forced to paint in a looser style. You have encouraged me to continue painting people (what I had never done before).” Gina
“I’ve enjoyed trying different papers, colour combinations and subjects such as fish rather than my usual landscapes.” Helen
“For the challenge sake I painted things I never succeeded at and figured it’s not so scary and bad after all.” Ayna
“The daily practice makes me more confident to try different things.” Sally
“Practising every day, even just for a short time, gave me more confidence in attempting different subjects.” Barbara H
31 in 31 Benefit #5: Overcoming Fears
Sometimes there are subjects that we avoid painting because we are intimidated by them. Our fears about failing hold us back. This challenge gave some the reason to tackle new-to-them subject matter, to leave their comfort zone behind.
“It helped me to conquer the two subjects I dreaded the most, ie, glass and metallics…. yeeeeah!” Barbara H
“I challenged myself to paint things I normally wouldn’t. As a figurative and portrait artist I very rarely venture outside my comfort zone so decided at the beginning of this challenge to spend a whole month not doing the things I love and to concentrate on landscape/streetscapes and such like instead.” Lynn H
“I overcame many fears and knew that I CAN paint portraits and architecture.” Evgenia
31 in 31 Benefit #6: Paint faster
Because of the serious time constraints, for some, the challenge meant painting faster and this in turn was liberating!
“My 1st benefit would have to be speeding up my process so I can finish a small piece in one day!” Lynn
“The powerful feeling of knowing that I am capable of accomplishing good work in a short amount of time if I honor this work ethic. This was definitely enhanced by the daily expectations and feeling accountable to the group.” Gill
“This really pushed me to work faster.” Jane
“Working quickly sometimes gives the best results. (Being freer and looser is one of my big challenges.)” Jymme
“Working smaller allowed me to work quicker and in turn helped me to loosen up in some of the paintings.” Gailen
“This event got me painting pastel faster without that hesitation. So now I will be painting faster and thus more.” DMae
“I found it very challenging to complete one each day , but I did it and didn’t have time to play with it so it was very spontaneous.” Rae
31 in 31 Benefit #7: Value of Community – a safe place to post, receive encouragement and suggestions
As participants posted, others encouraged, and liked, and commented. Ofter when feedback was requested, it was given profusely and kindly. With all this warmth, everyone began to feel safer to post even the work they felt didn’t come up to their own standards. We all allowed ourselves to be vulnerable, trusting that a sacred space had been formed within and by the community itself.
“I discovered the world is waiting to share and what a lovely gift the internet can be if we reach out and are open to giving and receiving advice.” Floribunda
“Having a community of encouragers pushed me to keep at it, even with the failed pieces.” Sally
“I’ve learned how important it is to share even the artworks that you don’t think are great. Because you might be surprised by the amount of people who will find something great about it and instead of being just another useless bad work, it will turn into your teacher, that will help you to understand what went good and what went bad.” Ayna
“Feeling part of this community of people committed to their growth as artists, whether they are beginners or have been painting for years. I have always found artist friends to be very supportive of each other and generous in sharing what we have learned.” Gill
“With this group I learned that there are so many artists out there with my same limited experience level and with just a few gentle suggestions from a more accomplished artist, we have overcome our difficulties. I’ve said it before but I’ll forever be grateful to Gail for introducing new friends to me.” Mary
“I enjoyed the variety of work and also skill levels. Those better artists inspired me and those just starting had my love and encouragement! We have all struggled in our art at times.” Yvonne
“I loved being a part of a group of committed pastellists. It was wonderful to see so many ideas and new techniques and I appreciated the comments and encouragement to try new things.” Wendy
“So, you can only imagine how far the artists’ comments went in me. I really enjoyed connecting with others who shared the same love of painting as me. I didn’t only get praise, I also received a lot of constructive criticism that I learned from, so very much appreciated and knew I could trust.” Elaine
“In addition I’ve learned about myself by listening to others advice/ critiques/support given so freely. The contributors to this challenge were not only gifted artists but generous caring people.” Natalie
“Meeting like minded folk on this challenge, who, like me, are on their own pastel journey, some more advanced than me and some less but all with the same willingness to put stuff out their for public scrutiny! Its been a total joy!” Lynn
“Courage to share the results no matter what the outcome.” Sandra
31 in 31 Benefit #8: Value of Community – you’re not alone!
Tied closely to the one above, this benefit was more about the social aspect, that we can all be connected over the internet even though painting is generally a solitary activity.
“A community of like-minded pastellists to give support and suggestions, reminding me that it may be my individual journey, but I’m not alone out there.” Merryann
“I think the biggest plus for me was working (virtually) alongside other artists. It’s very easy to wall myself off in my studio and never venture out in the big, wide world. It was nice to share my work with like-minded people who struggle with the same things that I do. This group is so welcoming and it felt safe to try new things here.” Marie
“The challenge provided community.” Cindy H
“This challenge afforded me camaraderie.” Cindy C
“I found the benefit of our group was all the feedback and camaraderie!” Sandi
“Enjoying encouraging contacts. Living in a rather isolated region, I have no pastel contacts except on FB. The ‘likes’ and encouragements help me to discover what I’m not so bad at and what I should continue studying. I have made new FB friends which is great.” Gina
“The icing on the cake was being part of a group of artists who share their love of pastels with me.” Helen
31 in 31 Benefit #9: Value of Community – Education from observing
Another thing I hadn’t counted on was that there was learning just by seeing everyone’s paintings and reading all the feedback. I was happy many participants mentioned this aspect of the challenge.
“I am new to painting, 90% self-taught, so I learned a lot from the ideas and comments from everybody else. I also appreciated the freedom to post here, as other ‘pastelist’ pages are intimidating for beginners.” Marsha
“I viewed over 2000 original works of pastel during this challenge on this site. Seeing so many examples and also having an inside track to artists’ process by what they wrote was invaluable. To be able to see this much work in a month and interact with so many artists in a “real” (as opposed to digital space) would require many museum visits and/or art classes.” Celeste
“The community of sharing this challenge created increased my learning by the multiple of all those who participated.” Louise
“Immense value of seeing the works of others.” Cindy C
“By viewing others’ paintings, I learned that a good artist will not only help another see the beauty in something, but would also appeal to other senses (make you hungry, make you crave the company of a long-lost friend, etc.).” Elaine
“Watching the paintings on this site evolve throughout the month was encouraging, too. Everyone was doing their best and even showing their worst, which is always encouraging.” Terre
“Reinforced the need to work on values and get the background tones fully established in order to complete the work quickly.” Floribunda
“The challenge provided education. I loved it!!!!!” Cindy H
“31 in 31 has shown me such a variety of different approaches to using pastels that I’m excited to learn more.” Natalie
31 in 31 Benefit #10: Accountability as motivator
A few others mentioned that being accountable to the group helped motivate them to paint. I was certainly one of those people!
“The challenge provided accountability.” Cindy H
“This challenge afforded me motivation.” Cindy C
“Being accountable to you all was a great motivator. I’m very thankful.” Jymme
31 in 31 Benefit #11: The joy of continuously thinking about painting
When you’re in painting mode, everywhere you look you see subjects. You can’t help but become more aware of the world around you.
“Knowing I would be painting every day, I found myself thinking about painting ALL day, whether I was painting or not. Everywhere I looked I saw a painting. Or a color combination that would look good in a painting, or a cloud formation, a composition of trees, etc, etc. The lasting benefit is the NEED and DESIRE to paint daily.” Barbara A
“I find myself thinking of painting and planning paintings all through the day and often in the waking hours of the night. Maybe a bit of an obsession, but a joyful one!” Sally
31 in 31 Benefit #12: A few other things
There were a few other benefits that didn’t fit nicely into the above but didn’t want to leave them out!
“I struggle with : #1 Picking at every detail #2 Muddy colors. #3 Painting too tight. I have grown leaps and bounds from this challenge I know all three areas I struggle with have improved.” Mary Kay
“Obviously working every day is great – and I tend to keep that speed up, but what this challenge thought me is that it’s ok to actually take a day off and if you don’t feel like doing a painting or even a sketch it’s ok. Then just do something else: study your palette better, try to find colors that go well with each other, just put some pastel to paper randomly to see how the colors look on paper and then all of a sudden you will feel like drawing something worth wile. So the most simple way to get inspired is just do things.” Ayna
“Another plus is simply the enjoyment I had in completing all these little studies…and some big ones too.” Joanie
“This was an amazing month. I had never completed that many paintings in one month and it was definitely a challenge! The thing that most impressed me is the decisiveness to continue to the end and determine what was worthy of painting. I decided to work on whatever came into my path that day and dive into painting it.” Terre
Inspired by all these glowing benefits? Perhaps you’ll participate in the next 31 in 31 challenge. You can read about the preparation for the 31 in 31 challenge here.
And if you’re interested in purchasing any of the images you see here, please let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the artist.
Workshop in Croatia in 2017!!
I’m super excited to be teaching next September in Croatia! Yes, CROATIA!!!
The area where we will be workshop-ing looks incredibly beautiful. There is so much available for us to paint and we’ll make the most of it – the sea and accompanying boats, the narrow alleys through old town, the rolling countryside of Mediterranean vegetation – it’s all there! Also, we’ll have a studio to work in so we can make good use of that with critiques, and perhaps even some still life work. Click here to read a bit more.
Reading student (and teacher) reviews on the Pastel Workshops website, it sure sounds like Mario takes care of everything and everyone just wonderfully. I do hope you’ll consider joining me!! You can register by going here.
That’s all for this time!
Thank you for taking this journey with me 🙂