About a year ago when I was evaluating my my painting skills I was getting very frustrated realizing I wasn't producing the quality of works that I wanted and I kept making the same errors over and over again. I know that this is a scenario that almost all budding and professional artists come up against time and time again in their career.
A year ago was also the same time I started using Instagram (I know, I'm late to the party). Of course I started following all of the absolute best artists out there and of course, as we all do, the little voice in my head was comparing my abilities to theirs. I was also absolutely floored by the quantity of work these artists were producing on a weekly basis! How can anyone produce that many incredibly paintings that quickly?
Photographing and sharing paintings can be very misleading. I did a series of 5x7 inch paintings of skies and hung them on my white wall in natural light with nothing around them to give an idea of scale, and to my surprise, they looked huge. And that is the trick. A lot of artists will actually paint many small paintings quickly and that is the key to improving at lighting pace. A lot of professional continue working small just for this reason, it's a great way to keep training your techniques and abilities.
The best thing you can do for yourself is dedicated a year to "exploration" even if you are currently selling works and still need to produce works in a certain style. Don't let your critical judgement take over I highly suggest and allow yourself to try
- different mediums
- different styles,
-different brushes and different brush strokes
-different lighting scenarios
-different ground colors (Try white gesso, black gesso, grey gesso, blue , burnt umber and sienna, and a deep bright red or crimson. You will have to use and handle paint differently on each and each will offer a new experience a vastly different results. You can even try the same painting on each to see how much the color of your ground can have an impact on the final piece.
Grab yourself a multi-media, or watercolor paper, or canvas paper sketch book, and set aside 30 minutes a day to "paint" or "draw" or explore. This exercise helps to quickly break out of habits that are holding you back and gets you out of your comfort zone. Because it's just a "sketch book" I find the pressure comes off to create a masterpiece, and because you've set aside under an hour or only 30 minutes you tend to loosen up which can do wonders for your progression as an artist.
You can also get some 18x24 inch student canvasses from the art store, search for "paint night" on google images and use those paintings as references. Give yourself the goal to complete one in two hours or less. Just before co-vid happened I was going to be teaching paint night events in Vancouver and gave myself as an instructor only 30 minutes to complete them (allowing myself time to give 1-1 instruction and answer questions). I was amazed at what I was able to do in such a short period of time, and I think you will also find this exercise beneficial and surprising. If it is in acrylic and you are not in love, you can easily re-gesso your canvas and paint over it. You can sand out any bumps with a fine grained sandpaper. This way, a pack of 4 canvasses will last you a long time for your practice. Working on large scale works is important as they take a different set of skills and you can jump back and forth between small works and large works but it's definitely the smaller works that will allow you to improve at lighting speed.
Here are some images that I have done as speed painting studies including some of my paint night paintings. They are not pieces I would put in a portfolio or sell, but they have so much value in terms of learning.