Behind the Scenes: 30-Minute Daily Painting Challenge

I’ve been painting every day for 30 minutes since mid November of last year.

I started my daily challenge to invigorate my creative practice and keep those creative muscles strong and flexible. (You can read more about my motivation here.)

I’m on my day 114 today (!) and wanted to share my process and how I find my inspirations every day. Enjoy!

When I Paint:

I reserve my mornings to writing, whether it’s a blog article, newsletter, or marketing copies, and other admin tasks like doing the finances and researching new retail shops to reach out to for my greeting cards etc. Mornings are the best time for me to think and do work that requires focus.

So, I schedule a 30-minute chunk on my calendar to paint every day after lunch. It’s a good activity to transition from the admin work, and by the time lunch rolls around, I’m a bit out of focus anyway, so it helps to get my hands and the creative part of my brain working then.

If I know I’ll be out of the office or otherwise busy during my usual painting time (like I’ve been taking a pottery class on Tuesday morning – early afternoon), I’ll go ahead and work on my painting in the morning before I get out of the door. I’d rather finish the painting earlier than later. You never know what’s gonna happen while you’re out or how long your other tasks would take, and I don’t want to be thinking about “oh I still need to do my painting today” all day. Sometimes it means I have to get up 30 minutes early to make sure I have enough time to create my painting.

Having the 30-minute restriction is both great and hard. It’s great because it forces me to rely on my intuition more than my mind. And it helps me to not be super perfectionist about it – it’s all about completing a piece in 30-minutes than making something that’s “perfect.” I just heard Elizabeth Gilbert say in this show (<– you MUST watch or listen to this by the way!) “Done is better than good.” Ain’t that the truth??

The time restriction also makes it less stressful because there is always so much stuff to do, and setting aside 30 minutes a day doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

On the other hand, it’s hard because I have to stop even if I don’t feel the work is “perfect” when my timer goes off. It gave me a great anxiety at first because I really didn’t know how much I could get done in 30 minutes. What if it looks terrible!?

But as I do this longer, I’ve been learning to gauge the time better and know what to focus on. For example, I try to prioritize getting the overall composition, colors, and shapes right than worrying about the tiny details. I’ve also gotten better at painting loosely and quickly.

What to Paint:

You might remember I did a similar 365 day challenge back in 2014-2015 called “Happiness is,” where I created a drawing about happiness every day.

Happiness is practicing gratitude every day.

But this time I don’t have a particular theme – it can be something personal, like how I’m feeling or what I did that day. I get inspired by nature and food often, so things I saw on my walk or food I ate could show up in my art.

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Florals are a natural go-to, and I never get tired of painting them! I enjoy painting stylized flowers and plants from imagination more than painting from references.

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Some days I go from one subject to another totally unrelated subject , and sometimes I keep painting the same or similar things for several days. For example, I painted a series of dogs in sweaters for a while ❤

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For the months of January, I followed along August Wren’s 30-day painting challenge on Creativebug. It was fun to learn from her creative process and painting techqniques, and I found some of the prompts challenging just because I’d never thought about painting them! It’s good to stretch and go out of your comfort zone like that! I love her loose painting style and her gentle teaching style too.

Many of the paintings here are from Jennifer's painting challenge!
Many of the paintings here are from Jennifer’s painting challenge!

In February, I watched another Creativebug class by Lisa Congdon and her Creative Boot Camp was awesome! I particularly enjoyed her monochromatic painting technique using only one color and tried painting using just blue. I was immediately hooked by this particular technique and kept painting in blues for many days!

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And when I got a little tired of painting still life, I started painting abstract works in blue.

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I had also created a random list of subjects to paint for when I don’t have an inspiration. I cut up tiny pieces of paper and just wrote down random things I might draw, like hats and pickles. And when I ran out of ideas for my list, I asked my husband, Dave, to pitch in. He’s a creative thinker and gave me so many random ideas I would’ve never thought of myself! Some of his suggestions were “lederhosen” and “avocado sandwich ” 😀 And then I put the pieces of the paper in a bag, and on days I have no idea what to draw or just  want to switch gears, I can pull out a topic and paint!

Materials I use:

For paints, I use Sakura Koi watercolor field sketch kit even if I’m at home – it’s so easy to set up – you just open up the palette and everything is there!

sakura-koi-watercolor

 

I used them in combination with random assortment of other watercolor and gouache paints (mostly by Winsor and Newton), some were given by friends and some I bought along the way. I just use the palette that comes with the Koi watercolor set to mix the colors (I often mix watercolor and gouache together). My palette tends to stay pretty messy… 😀 and when I need a new fresh surface, I just wipe the area clean with wet paper towel.

As far as papers go, I use the Strathmore paper mixed media pad series 400 in size 11″x14″. They’re thick smooth paper with just enough texture. I started using them last summer and immediately fell in love! They’re not the cheapest paper, but I just like how nice it feels to paint on them, and colors show so brilliantly. I cut the paper in quater so that makes each paper 5.5″x7″, which is pretty small, and I find that size just right for my 30-minute painting (not to mention stretching your  $$!)

At first I was painting on a slightly larger paper and quickly realized it was hard to fill the page in 30 minutes! And I was feeling more nervous about not filling the page than focusing on what I was actually painting, so I switched to the smaller paper, and that’s working pretty well for me.

I use a few different watercolor brushes  – #1 for a finer detail, #4 for detail and small to medium-ish area and #7 for more thicker line or a larger area (I believe I got them at Blick.) I was using the waterbrush pen that came with the Sakura Koi set and still do when I do a quick sketch on the couch, but I like having the different sized brushes and the natural  brush materials paint really nicely. I also use the wider flat brush if I’m painting the background or a larger area. It’s so much quicker!!

I also started using a hair dryer a few weeks ago to shorten the drying time, and it totally changed my life!!! 😀 It’s especially helpful when I want to layer with wet watercolor and don’t want them to bleed. It saves me SO MUCH TIME and allows me to work in more details in just 30 minutes. I don’t think I can paint without it ever again… 😀


I hope you enjoyed learning my creative process! And if you want to purchase any of my small original paintings, go back to my last post and learn all about it 🙂

Have a creative day!

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

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