-By Howard Lyon

First, I want to say how lucky I feel to have a regular spot to post here on Muddy Colors.  It is humbling, inspiring and a great opportunity.  Thank you.

Sometimes when life gets really busy, either with work or family, it is tough to make enough time in our busy schedules to practice. I will often find myself in the middle of many deadlines and other obligations and the first thing that I will let go is taking the time each day to do a little personal sketching or painting.

This is a mistake though, because I find that I take the most risks and receive the most gains when working on personal projects. I think about growth often. What am going to do today to improve? If want to paint as well as Waterhouse or Rockwell, what I am doing about it? There is certainly much to learn in reading or from teachers, but at the end of the day it will be in front of the easel that most of the improvement will happen.

I may never even approach the skill and quality of the great artists that I admire, but I am certain that if I don’t actively work towards a goal of improvement, I will fall much shorter otherwise. I was talking to a very talented and commercially successful artist and asked what they were doing to improve. He looked at me and said “Nothing, I am able to paint to the level I sought.” Please take me out into a field and hit me over the head with a shovel if I ever utter such words.

Each morning I try to take an hour or two before I start working and draw, read or paint. This week, I did a little sketch over two days to share here and recorded it. This is about 3.5 hours of painting time done over two mornings. I shot the reference for this about a month ago. I had some floral wreaths made for a painting series I am going to be working on and asked my daughter to model them for me.

I did this little 5″x5″ sketch on masonite with a lot more texture on the board than I usually use (if you read my Norman Rockwell post you will remember how struck I was with the texture of the ground).  I still painted pretty thin, but I liked the way the texture underneath worked with my brushstrokes on top.  I need to explore this more.

I started with a pencil drawing, then inked the important lines with a Micron Pigma pen followed by a quick wash with casein and then went right into oils.

Watch the video below to see a time-lapse of the sketch.

I find doing small personal pieces like this immensly rewarding professionally, but also psychologically.  It feels great to start and finish a piece in the same day and they give me a little boost each time.  Some are duds, but often enough there is a spark of inspiration or problem that resolves and I take a baby step towards my goals.