Every week in the HowToPastel Facebook group, we have a Friday Challenge. The challenge could be to paint a specific subject or create a painting in particular way. Last week, inspired by the interviews with Jen Evenhus and Tony Allain, the challenge was to create a 10-minute painting. Yup you heard me. A 10-minute painting. Since it was my challenge, I thought I better darn well take part!
The challenge was 10 minutes to paint so the 10 minutes didn’t include preparation time. I wanted to encourage lots of looking and creation of thumbnails. There was also the chance to pre-select at least some of the possible colours in the correct values ahead of time. (Even though this isn’t how I generally work, choosing pastel sticks ahead of time seemed a mighty fine idea for this challenge!)
Well, I expected this to be a bit difficult but wow – it was hard! For me, 10 minutes went by in a flash.
While I was painting, I stopped the timer twice on my iPhone to take a photo. I tried to restart the timer quickly so I wouldn’t have time to ponder the piece. This stopping and starting probably added at least a couple of minutes but by doing it, I could share my progress with you.
A number of HowToPastellers took part in this challenge. Many of them gave me permission to share their 10-minute painting here. I hope that seeing all of these will encourage you to try out your own 10-minute painting!
See let’s look at the progression of my 10-minute painting first. First, the reference photo:
At this point I selected a few pastels – two darks, four mid-value and three lights – nine in all (see them below). Here’s the paper with trial marks – testing the colour and value of each choice:
Here’s the painting with the pastels used:
There’s lots I’d like to do and change but all in all, I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased with this 10-minute painting!
Let’s have a look at some examples by HowToPastellers. There’s a variety of subject matter from portraits (yes!) to still life to landscapes to night scene. Most of the pieces are fairly small. Many were pleased with the results. A few later went on to spend another 15 minutes or so to work on them, or to create new pieces.
I’ve also included their thoughts about the process.
Some 10-minute landscapes:
Maria Romero – “This was difficult. To work so quickly, I realized it couldn’t be something too complicated because I wouldn’t have time to get enough in. I always choose my colors on the go. This made me choose them before I started, and made me concentrate on the strokes. This was much looser than I usually paint. It takes a lot of preparation to paint in a short time.”
Patricia Faulkner Cisek – “I’ve been staring at a work in progress on my easel for 3 weeks doing nothing on it… I needed this challenge to free me from my painter’s block and get me painting quicker and looser. Boy did it work! As I began I thought I’d get nothing done in 10 min but when the timer went off, I was happy with my results. Loved having to think quickly.”
Wendy Prest – “10 minutes to work was a fun challenge. Working that fast was really different…and I must admit to the need to really finish it.”
Ruth Mann – “I thought I had prepared this one properly…studied the photo…..small value sketch….chose my palette and then started, timed by hubby. The colours are wrong, the composition I planned got lost etc. It’s taught me that I need to plan better for a quick work like this.”
Gareth Jones – “First attempt and found it exhiliarating. It unearthed a different way of thinking and working for me… the colours just picked themselves! Great fun. I quite like it and will do a full version of it at a later date – but it made me think and paint in a completely different way. I enjoyed the process!”
Iris Devadason – “2 visitors sit on a rock with a tower which indicates one end of our city Bangalore…[from a] newspaper photo entitled ‘Riding the Storm’. Learnt a lesson this time. Will choose a familiar subject if I have to do it again.”
A couple of nature close-ups:
Elaine Benevides – “I would’ve done much better if I had known we could prepare. (I thought it was against the rules.) I decided to paint it live, and felt really lost and unhappy without doing my value study. I didn’t choose my colors; I did everything in 10 minutes (timed by Siri), from choice of subject in my yard to painting.”
Gisela Llorens – “Found this quite a challenge. I picked my colors in advance and started the timer. Made me quite nervous. I worked quickly and then was surprised to find that 10 minutes is a lot longer than I thought. I tend to do a lot of detail and the timing allowed for none so it is an interestingly loose painting for me!”
Three 10-minute still life paintings:
Gailen Lovett – “I pre-arranged the peppers and took a photo so I could view the values in the value viewer app. The highlights and shadows looked good so I did a little study in my sketchbook in preparation for the 10 min. drawing. Worked on the peppers and finished in the pre-set 9 minutes saving the last minute for the background as suggested by Jen Evenhus. That last minute was fast and furious to get it completed and was the hardest part for me.”
Karen Helfeld Israel – “I set up sour cherries and a plum in my studio and began the line drawing for proportion. Then I set the timer on my phone – 5 minutes to paint (took 5 min to draw).”
Celeste Mann – “I set a timer for 11 minutes (1 minute to get back in my seat!). I chose the pastels before hand and set up everything. I did this from life. I actually was surprised that I could do this in 10 minutes. I was expecting it to be very impressionistic and I got more detail into it than I imagined I could. I thought this was a great exercise. Having to work fast like this gets rid of the ‘censor’. There is no time to beat oneself up or think too much.”
Three 10-minute portraits:
Casey Klahn – “10 minutes was too long for this! I was adding stuff to fill the time. I did discover that I don’t do well pre-selecting colors, but if I pre-select some, then go into the compulsive pick new sticks mode then things are fine. This guy is from my sketchbook of a trip to SF this summer. Hip guy, huh?”
Gina Carstens – “I was unable to choose my colours before [painting this], just used the colours which were still on the table. I have never painted before only from imagination, took the pastels intuitively and was surprised, nearly scared, when I saw the result. I discovered a power in me which I had ignored before. Great experience! No time for any reflection. Will continue this kind of training, very interesting.”
Lynn Howarth – “Gosh this was so hard! I prepared everything so that I had all my pastels to hand and set my iPhone timer accordingly. I have drawn this lovely old chap twice before so I know his face inside out yet still there are lots of things I’m not happy with but I know I’ve caught a decent likeness. It is what it is for a 10 minute study!”
And last but not least, a night scene (with accompanying reference photo):
Ruth Burley – “I didn’t prep but I needed a break from one of the first portraits I’ve worked on. I’m kind of embarrassed about my messy painting but went VERY loose and took a couple more minutes. It was a very freeing experience to break loose and go with it and not expect perfection.”
I think this was a good experience for most participants. Evidently, producing a 10-minute painting has a number of benefits.
10-minute painting benefits
- It makes you laser focused when it comes to the actual work
- Once you’ve done all the thinking, prep, and planning beforehand, you can then paint more intuitively
- It makes you look really hard to see which is, after all, what being an artist is all about
- It means you have no excuse not to put pastel to paper during a day
- It’s a great way to warm up for more substantial and larger work
- It’s also a good way to use those small scraps of paper around the studio and also, recycle paper (from paintings that didn’t work)
- It frees you up from expectation of a successful outcome – it becomes more about process and about a mental determination to do the work
With all these benefits, I hope you’ll consider trying a 10-minute painting!
If you’ve done a 10-minute painting, what’s the biggest payoff for you? If you haven’t done a 10-minute painting, what’s holding you back? As always, I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
PS. Thanks to all the HowToPastellers who allowed me to share their work here. Here’s the list of paintings I’ve included:
Maria Romero, 10 min study Sand Dunes, pastel on La Carte Pastelcard, 16 x 24 cm
Patricia Faulkner Cisek, 10 minute study, pastel over gesso-covered matboard, 4 x 6 in
Wendy Prest, Daisies in Moose Point State Park, pastel on recycled pastelbord, 5 x 7 in
Ruth Mann, 10-minute study, pastel,
Elaine Benevides, 10 minute study, Terry Ludwig pastels on reused UART, 6 x 4 1/2 in
Gisela Llorens, Daisy, pastel on UART, 4 x 4 in
Gareth Jones, Yellow Field, Unison pastels on Sennelier Pastelcard, 7 x 7 in
Iris Devadason, Riding the Storm, pastel on Montmart pastel paper, 11/3/4 x 16 1/2 in
Gailen Lovett, Garry’s (fresh picked) Hot Peppers, Sennelier and Unison pastels on UART 500, 6 x 6 in
Karen Helfeld Israel, Sour Cherries, Sweet Plums, pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes Touch,
Celeste Mann, 10 Minute Flower, Blick Artists pastels on Conson Mi-Teintes, 11 x 8 1/2 in
Casey Klahn, 10 Minute San Francisco Guy, pastel, 12 x 8 in
Gina Carstens, 10 Minute Study of a Girl, pastel on ‘recycled’ UART paper, 21 x 14 cm
Lynn Howarth, Auld Davie 3, Unison pastels on recycled brown card, 30 x 30 cm
Ruth Burley, 10 minute study, pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes, 6 x 9 in