STUDIO: A Method for Painting Productivity


Right now: Three Works in Progess


Every artist has their own individual approach to creating art. Everyone needs to figure out what method works best for them.

I’ve found I do best when I have multiple paintings in progress, at different stages of completion. If I’m not feeling the flow on a particular piece, I can switch to another one that’s at either a more basic or complex stage of resolution, and keep going.

There could be a danger in this. I have so many ideas, I could start 50 canvases, and nothing would ever get finished, just because my efforts would be too diffused. So to approach painting in a systematic and orderly fashion, I’ve developed a method which keeps the number of works in progress manageable, but still gives flexibility and choices.

I try to have 3 canvases going at the same time: A long term project, a medium term project, and a short term project. Long term will take several months to complete. Medium term is around a month. Short term is a couple of weeks.

I usually make an assumption on how long a painting will take based on its size. For example, right now my long term is 30″ x 30″, the medium term is 24″ x 18″, and the short term is 12″ x 16″.

The tricky part is the smaller works sometimes take a lot longer than I anticipate-smaller does not mean easier. Big pieces, however, predictably remain marathons.

Because of the staggered start dates and completion times, I always have something still fresh and new available to work on, something that needs very exacting details and decisions made, and something in between. It also means that in a typical three month block of time, I will have made multiple new paintings.

This model can apply to more than just painting. In life, what long term, medium term, and short term goals do you have going at any one time? It’s a great way to keep making consistent progress.





14 thoughts on “STUDIO: A Method for Painting Productivity

  1. I agree with your approach in theory, but it certainly doesn’t work for me practically. My head is far too busy… so is my commissions list. I have to start and finish a piece in as little time as possible and then move onto the next one. I tried the staggered approach once… the unfinished victim of that experiment is still hanging the wrong way around on the wall. i commend your efforts to keep it together on 3 paintings at once ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I can see how this could work in painting.

    Probably due to my career in workflow engineering, I long assumed I should complete one manuscript before tackling another. But when I found myself working on three different manuscripts at the same time, I realized that hammering out the story and character arcs of one piece often opened my eyes to possibilities in the other pieces.

  3. Sounds like a good system. I admire artists that can walk away from an unfinished painting.

  4. Thank you for posting this, Richard! I like this idea of embracing the “A.D.D.” (so to speak) and making it work for you! ๐Ÿ™‚
    The fact that here you are as an example, utilizing this methodology so well, it almost gives permission to us other A.D.D. folk. (In a good way.) No more beating ourselves up for not completing just one at a time! Yay ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Long term: finish the new novel I started 10 years ago.

    Medium term: keep reading a variety of books and watching movies (and music and lectures) and stay on a schedule for reviewing them so that my mind has inputs/outputs

    Short term: write every morning and do not let new ideas and sentences and words get away

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