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Direct Painting Challenge - June 2022

This June, I "sort of" participated in the 30 x 30 Direct Painting Challenge on social media. 

I say, "sort of" because I knew entering it that I wouldn't be able to truly commit to the challenge. I knew I would get to the end of the month with far fewer than 30 paintings. I ended up doing 12.

The Challenge

The challenge is hosted by American Artists Uma Kelkar and Marc Taro Holmes and is largely active on their Facebook page and under the hashtag: #30x30DirectWatercolor. It is open to all artists internationally. My good friend Moumita was also participating this month and managed to cross the finish line  30 amazing works of art! 

What is Direct Watercolour Painting?

Direct Painting in watercolour refers to a style of painting where the artist does as little prep as possible. This means going directly to the paper with paint and foregoing the underdrawing. It involves working quickly, often using the wet in wet technique and fewer layers. 

This is a huge challenge in watercolour and can really help loosen up or freshen up your approach. It is also totally different from my regular style, that relies heavily on prep, underdrawing and countless layers and glazes. 

Tabletop with paint and painting of a tomato

How it Went

I had hoped to do more than I did, I finished 12 Direct paintings over the course of the month. Of these, I'm really only happy with 6 of them which I will be putting up in my flash sale July 1st. 

This style really challenged me and helped me create looser, fresher and more expressive paintings. I found that direct painting is a great exercise in simplifying my work. 

Added Challenge

I decided I would take the opportunity to explore my new Roman Szmal Aquarius paints. I recently was gifted a set in their Artur Przybysz colour palette. I limited myself to these colours only during the month.

That was a huge added benefit to the challenge and helped me really dig in and get to know these colours and their properties. I loved exploring these colours and I appreciate the harmonious feel all my paintings had this month. I will be posting a full review of this palette soon.

Watercolour painting of a tree with a face

 Take Aways

I learned so much from this challenge as it really pushed me out of my comfort zone.  My paintings definitely had a fresher and looser style this month and I hope I can carry some of that through to my regular practice. 

This method really helps me be present and thoughtful. I have to focus, creating accurate lines and taking decisive action with each brush stroke. 

I noticed my work tended to be a bit heavy handed which is something I want to work on. Value wise, I quickly escalated to mid and dark values. With this method, it is easy to go right in with saturated and intense colours, instead of lighter washes. Great if you enjoy a bolder style! 

Working in this style helped me to eliminate a lot of unnecessary detail. I really love the simplified feel to all my paintings this month. I also used a lot more of the wet in wet technique than I normally do. 

When finished, I often felt like I had the "bones" of a great painting, but I often felt there were things I would have liked to do differently. I feel many of the paintings had something really exciting happening in them, but I kept thinking, "if only" I had a little more prep, if only I had used an underdrawing. This is where the lightbulb went off, and I found something in this challenge that will really change my art going forward. 

Lightbulb Moment

When painting in the studio, I start a painting by diving right into the finished work. I create a pencil underdrawings, put down frisket and do a good deal of prep, but most of my process is working directly on the "finished work." This leads to me scrapping and redoing almost every major studio work. 

I feel like I always secretly hope that I will land a masterpiece on a first try, but I always end up painting and repainting the same subject multiple times.  As I build up a painting, I make discoveries and by the time I'm done, I have a complete map of where I want to go. 

Direct paintings are fast, often completed in 30 - 40 minutes or less. I was finding that many of the problems I work through in my preliminary paintings above, I was solving during this quick and expressive process. 

Going forward, I want to incorporate short direct paintings into my studio process and use them as preliminary paintings in the studio. I hope this helps create more freshness in my final works and also saves time and makes preliminary work a lot more fun!  

If you are looking to try a challenge of your own, World Watercolour Month Starts July 1st! 

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