Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 210

Eye Study 2 (yes, it's my eye), 4 x 4 inch oil on panel.
© 2013 Kathleen Coy

**Warning! Angst-y artist post ahead!

I had a lovely comment yesterday on day 209 from Allison (thank you!) saying, "I'd love to read more about how you feel about your experience in your painting a day. How you've grown, how you've dealt with challenges, how its made a difference in your life and your art." 

I plan to do a more detailed post about that when the year-long challenge is over, which is only 50! paintings away (the end of April.) Today was a tough day however, and I feel the need to talk about that a little, so I will say today that it definitely hasn't been ALL rainbows and unicorns. Today is almost over and here I am finally posting, because I found any excuse I could to put off painting today, because I just didn't feel like it. Actually, I've had a few days where I just want to curl up and cry (and have once or twice) at the thought of having to paint something. Not very often, but after almost a year of this, they do happen occasionally. I love what this project has done for my work, and it's been totally worth it, but some days I just want a break. (Remember, I'm often working on commissioned paintings at the same time as these daily paintings.) 

I had coffee with a friend recently and she told me about a day-long women's retreat she went on, where the group leader told them, "today, you don't have to produce anything..." and the relief of that statement hit home for me how much stress this project has been. Wonderful and exciting and I've loved it for the most part, but stressful, too. I suppose I could give myself a break on days like that by slapping down a coat of paint and give a line of bs like "today I'm exploring this shade of red," or drip some paint around for 5 minutes and call it a tribute to Jackson Pollack, but that's just not me or what this project is about. However, there are days when I wonder if I'm abusing myself in my perfectionism and this stubborn need to hold myself accountable when I said I was going to do a painting every weekday for a year. Or is this just part of the struggle for anyone devoting themselves to a daily discipline and I shouldn't think so much about it? Thankfully, I was nice enough to give myself a few holidays off and smart enough to foresee I wouldn't last a year without weekends off (even though when you factor in commissioned paintings, I pretty much paint every day).

I love to paint, and I SO very much appreciate the growth I've experienced with this daily painting challenge - both artistically and in developing the discipline required. It's been truly amazing to live this experience unfolding in front of my eyes. But there are days when the "have to" part sucks. Everyone has days where they don't want to go to work, right? It usually goes away once I get started, or at least, when I put down an interesting brush stroke or mix a color just right - then the joy comes back. I try not to stress too much when days like this happen, because I've had my biggest breakthroughs after having a bad day (or week), so I just try to work through them, and know they will pass. 

When the year is over in April, I still plan to paint most every day because I really do love it, but I love the thought of the pressure being off me of HAVING to complete a painting in a day if I don't feel like it. I also like the thought of a vacation when it's over. But after finishing 210 daily paintings, 50 more really doesn't seem like that many... I got this. Sorry for the "angst-y artist" post. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, and thanks for being a part of my journey. I actually feel better now just from writing this. (Blog therapy?) Here's hoping for some rainbows and unicorns next week. I feel good about where I'm at. I'm excited to see what comes.


  1. I love the honesty of this post, Kathleen. I too had made a commitment, but only to myself, to paint every day for a year, and I did accomplish my goal and actually went 422 days. I never got into the habit of painting several in one day and coasting on that because for a start sometimes it would take 5 hours to paint one little sucker!.
    My goal was to see if I could improve my painting skills and it did just that. I related to all the different ups and downs you talked about as I have a busy teaching schedule and a gallery for larger works to keep up with.
    When I was an illustrator I would have deadlines and a family to take care off and I worked my butt off for the agency, proudly never missing a deadline so I thought if I could do it for them I certainly can do it for myself. That helped.

    I would say the main thing I learned about posting a painting every day was not to be as critical and say to myself - this is the best I can do at this stage of my development. Recognizing that helped me no end. I always did and still do, hold the gold nugget of improvement as a goal in front of me.
    I read critical observations about the act of daily paintings and I think they miss the goal of personal improvement. Of course it is not about painting masterpieces. Most artists only do a few of them in a lifetime.
    Have you seen the piece on Questioning the DP Movement on The Art Room blog? Well worth a visit.

    I enjoyed the exchange. I admire your work so much. Nice to know the voice behind it. Thank you.

    1. Julie, thank you so much for your thoughts! The admiration is mutual. I almost didn't publish this post because I thought it was too personal, and your comment made me glad that I did.

      I did read that post on The Art Room about a month ago, and there was a huge feeling of relief knowing that I wasn't alone. I appreciate your advice about not being too critical... one of the things that brought about this post was not being happy at all with this painting, but having to post it because it was late and I was too tired and uninspired to paint another one. I know there is no one putting pressure on me to post everyday other than myself, and I am stubborn to a fault and really want to make it through this challenge without missing a day.

      It seems that my paintings are taking longer and are more complicated as the year goes by - it's easy to spend 6-8 hours on one of these little paintings. And I chase the "high" of improvement and am hard on myself when it doesn't happen... the stress I felt last night made me see that I need to be kinder to myself... I guess when you're stressed everything seems to snowball.

      I said to a friend today that I think it all boils down to the stress of not being allowed to have any "wipers." That I have to post something every day regardless, and I want it to be good. So I look forward to my challenge being over and having the luxury of that pressure being off. I'm entering the home stretch, and that feels very good. I just need to focus more on enjoying the process and my growth, rather than feeling like they all have to be amazing paintings in their own right.

      Thanks again so much for your comment, Julie. When this challenge is over I look forward to having a little more time to spend connecting with the amazing family of daily (or not) painters in the blogosphere.

  2. Kat, you are one of the most talented, and yet humble artists I know... and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet and paint with you. I admire you not only for your talent... but your sense of honesty and commitment is so inspiring. You're not afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I really enjoy reading about your process, as you explore new subjects. You shouldn't have to apologize for being the "aangst-y artist". Give yourself a little slack!

    1. Linda, thank you so much! One of my favorite things about last year was meeting so many inspiring artists at Karin's workshop, including you!

  3. Kathleen, I'm the one who posed this question (Allison). Thank you so much for your response, and for being so honest about it. I'm not the "rainbows and unicorns" as you say (lol) personality type and I worry if I'm sounding whiny when it seems that most bloggers have this great positive attitude or at least they seem to. I'm terribly excited about painting and I love the feeling I get when I feel like I've pulled off at least some good strides in improving... But there are some times ( the kisses painting and the peppermint candy painting in particular) that I'm stomping my feet and wondering why I'm exposing myself to this frustration! ( I could've had a V-8!!!!

    I'm thinking of why I have even started my blog and it is to improve and to get into the habit of painting on a regular basis. I want to see that improvement and document the process as honestly as possible. I think that might have to include a few foot stomping episodes, but if that's how it is then so be it...

    Thanks for your honesty and encouragement. I wish I were closer and could take some classes with you. You're an amazing painter and I'm in awe that you have almost pulled off your year of daily paintings. Love your eye, too btw!

    1. Allison, thank you for your thoughts. You've made some excellent points and I agree 100%. That feeling we get when we see improvement - "chasing the high" as I called it, is such a powerful motivator, and days when we don't see it can be pretty frustrating. We have to remember (myself included!!) that it's all about hours in front of the easel that count, and all those hours and focus are never wasted.

      One reason I wrote this post with the honesty that I did, was because at the time it felt more stressful to pretend it was just another day when it wasn't. I've found, (especially as I get older) that a positive attitude is huge and makes everything go smoother in my life. But that can also set up unrealistic expectations to anyone reading that you're never supposed to have a bad day at painting. It happens, and it's ok! :-)

      Hang on to that excitement, and days when you don't feel it, paint something you really love. That always brings mine back (hence all the paintings of my dog, lol.)