Creating a Series of Abstract Landscapes (#AEDM2017 Recap)

March 29th, 2018

Every year I can point to Art Every Day Month (AEDM) as kind of a pivotal catalyst in my work, because every time I participate, I take on a new challenge in addition to painting every day.

Nine paintings created or otherwise finished during November 2017, aka Art Every Day Month (AEDM) 2017

There’s something freeing about that framework of a daily challenge plus the chance to try something different for just a month.

Looking back over the past few years of Art Every Day Month

For example, in 2014, the first year I really focused on painting every day for AEDM, I tried acrylic and abstracts just to change things up a little. I loved it so much I decided to shift my entire art practice in that direction.

After I wrapped up my 2015 AEDM set, which was inspired by British rock songs, I noticed my painting had gotten darker and darker (maybe from listening to too much Black Sabbath on repeat) so I made the effort to brighten up my work. It took a while, but I did successfully make things brighter.

So by AEDM 2016, I was painting bright, abstract landscapes after I threw out my back. At the end of the month, I tried the smaller format in an effort to sell pantings for the holidays, and stuck with it.

In early 2017, I developed a new technique of toning the canvases orange. So for #AEDM2017, I continued the small, abstract landscapes that began all orange.

I really like this size and technique

I love these little paintings because I can finish them relatively quickly, and price them at a place where it’s easy for collectors to purchase and easy for me to ship. So it’s a win for everybody.

Here’s a short video compilation of #AEDM2017 efforts:

Recapping Art Every Day Month 2016 (#AEDM2016)

December 17th, 2016

This was the third year in a row that I’ve successfully participated in Art Every Day Month. AEDM2016 was a lot of fun, though I hit a wall early in the month when I got sick. But I took on a sub-challenge that helped me get through it.

Out of a possible 30 days I only got in 10 days

The first few days of the month it took a while to find my groove. I started out working on a painting of Superman that I started for my four-year-old, but that was actually kind of hard for me. Abstract has become my default way of working. Painting superheroes is entirely different.

Then about a week in, I got sick! I don’t know why I forget I tend to get sick almost every November due to the changing seasons and weather. I ended up with a sinus infection as well as pink eye! So I missed a few days from being sick and then just recovering. (I haven’t been this sick in some 11-plus years.) Going forward I need to be more careful about how I budget my time and energy… how do I prepare myself for November physically, and stay in good health?

But on the days that I did get in the studio I got some good work done, especially going into December. Overall I’m pretty happy with the work I did.

What worked?

I’ve discovered that people really like the abstract pieces I do that resemble sunsets or sunrises. The other thing that worked really well was a gold bar motif. I sold a number of small paintings with a similar motif. I don’t know what it is about the gold but people really seem to like it.

Around Thanksgiving I got an idea from my friend Jeff Bertrand to do a bunch of small affordable pieces. He has an entirely different style from mine (pop surrealist cartoon characters and singers and movie stars) so I didn’t feel like I was copying him too much, although he told me to “get my own tots.” 🙂

But it was fun to do about ten eight-by-eight-inch paintings and sell them for $30 each. I did not make a lot of money off it out. In fact I barely broke even. But the goal was to get my art out there. Not to make money. But to get my art on people’s walls. And that worked!

What didn’t work?

I discovered that yellow is a difficult color to work with. Especially when combined with gray and off-white. It looks really sharp if it’s done right, but it’s very difficult to pull off. So my hat is off to Hyunmee Lee who I’ve found and admired on Pinterest.

It is still very difficult to create light in paintings. I think it has something to do with the additive nature of the paint. The more paint you put on, the darker it appears. You can always add more white, but sometimes the white can be blinding. It’s all about striking a balance between the light and the dark. That’s something I’m learning, and I’ve been painting for years.

Videos to come

I still have a number of time lapse videos to put together. I have the raw footage on my iPhone but I haven’t stitched any of it together yet. So be on the lookout for time lapse painting videos in the next few weeks.

#AEDM2016 Mid-month report

November 18th, 2016

We are halfway through November, which is Art Every Day Month! It’s gone by pretty fast for me.

Unfortunately I haven’t been as productive as I had hoped to be. I got sick at the first of the month, which seems to be in keeping with my usual track record for November. It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather is doing, but something about this time of year always takes a toll on me. I’m looking into preventative measures to combat this in the coming year.

Anyway, this month I have done some work on the small Superman painting I started for my son back in the summer.

It’s been fun to do, but something of a challenge because the details are entirely different from the abstract landscapes I’ve been creating the past several years.

It’s been unseasonably warm, so I took the opportunity to go outside and work on some sketches for painting ideas. You can see echoes of my overpasses and bridges in these as well as some of the fog I’ve been obsessed with the past few years.

I’m really looking forward to expressing this on canvas soon.

I actually dreamed about painting the bottom one. The dark areas were black but as the paint ran out it turned pinkish. It sounds pretty different for me but right in line with the kind of stuff I like to do.

It’s been slow going this year. I’m thinking I may do another art every day month in the middle of the summer, when I’m less likely to get sick. My kids will be able to get in on the fun, too, since they won’t have to go to bed early for school the next day.

How to Prepare for an Amazing Art Every Day Month

October 21st, 2016

Confession time.

I haven’t been in the studio since July.

Yeah. I know. It’s driving me crazy.

I threw out my back the last week that I was preparing those paintings to hang in Erabellum for the August Art Crawl. I was able to finish them up and hang them in the gallery, but I never got back to the studio after that.

Then, the kids started school. My freelance design work and day job got really busy. Next, we took the kids to the beach for fall break.

Suddenly it is almost November, which means Art Every Day Monthis upon us. The prospect of working on art every day for a month is a welcome one for me.

I’m so ready to get back in the studio.

This will be my fourth year to participate in Art Every Day Month.

In 2009, I gave the concept a shot, but I had no strategy for Art Every Day Month. I just photographed stuff and doodled and said, “I did several things today so that counts for the next few days.”

Nope, that’s not how it works.

You don’t work out three times as long one day and say that workout counts for the next three days. The same goes for your art. You’re only going to see change when you put in the work regularly. (I’m preaching to myself, here.)

I discovered abstraction in 2014

So in 2014, I understood I had to have a plan. I had learned that trying to crank out a single painting in a day was a recipe for burnout for me. So I just painted as many days as I could, even if it was just for 20 minutes before work.

That formula worked.

I discovered how much I love abstraction and how freeing it is to let the paint do what it wants.

Rock-and-Roll in 2015

In 2015, I explored painting rock songs, and everything turned really dark. I think a lot of that had to do with my emotional state. So much was uncertain. I had gotten laid off. We left a church we liked when some things happened that made us feel unsafe. The kids were starting a new school year. I had some freelance coming in, but not enough to get us through the end of the year. I didn’t know what my job future would look like. My wife started cleaning houses so we could make ends meet.

And all that bleakness showed up in my painting.

A concerted effort to bring back the color in 2016

That brings us to 2016. What will I do for Art Every Day Month this year? I’ve been working hard to bring color back to my paintings, and I think I’ve succeeded. I’m happy with where it is going, but there is still a lot to be done to shape it into something I am really happy with and excited to share with everyone.

I’ve had a lot of ideas knocking around in my head lately. Recently I wrote about how I’m inspired by several things right now. Do I paint fog/haze? Pure abstraction? Expressive forms? Flyovers? Bright colors or a limited/analogous palette? Use sacred geometry? Something inspired by lazy pressure-washing on the sidewalks?

I wonder if there is a way to combine all of those things. Would all of those things make the art confusing? Fog and bright colors don’t really go together. Or do they? That’s the beauty of art. The beauty of beauty itself. Contradiction and paradox are wonderful things, because they tease and stimulate the mind.

To prepare, I’ve done sketches over the past few months. They don’t look like much right now, but for me, that’s enough to get something started. I’ve found it is best to simply start with the kernel of an idea. Trying to control the outcome of a canvas is counterproductive. A single idea like a shape or a color or something like that is enough for me.

I’ve also been adding to several Pinterest boards. Pinterest is visual candy for me. I love how it recommends things based on what I’ve pinned before. It keeps showing me more abstract expressionist paintings, and images of fog, people working on giant canvases, and the like. And when Timehop shows me old Instagrams and I decide I still like them, I will throw them into a private board as fodder for painting ideas.

So, what will I paint in November?

Since it has been a while since I’ve spent any time in the studio I don’t want to sustain a creative injury from doing too much at once. So I’m going to start small, and go bigger from there.

I’ll post weekly progress reports here on the blog, but if you want daily email updates during Art Every Day Month 2016, sign up here. (If you already get my email newsletter, this is a separate email that I’ll send out.)

And of course I’ll update my Instagram and Snapchat accounts as often as I think to.

Are you participating in AEDM16?

If you are participating, leave a comment to let everybody know where we can follow your work!

Looking Back at #ArtEveryDayMonth2015: 3 Things I Learned

January 26th, 2016

In case you missed it, I participated in Art Every Day Month 2015.

AEDM is a fun way to challenge yourself to make some art every day for a month. Doing it online builds in accountability. It keeps you motivated, and you see what other people are doing, so you know you aren’t doing it alone. That makes it more fun. You get better at doing art just from the practice.

And focusing my efforts in such a way that I wanted to achieve very specific things allowed me to actually accomplish something. So I set 3 goals. I also learned 3 things.

3 Goals I had for AEDM15:

1. Stay focused on a theme: abstracts inspired by British rock songs Sometimes limitations are an artist’s best friend. I love British rock, and there are a few songs I have wanted to translate to paint for some time. There are a few I didn’t get to. Maybe I will later.

2. Don’t try to paint a new piece every day. Do try to paint daily. It’s just like Like Jerry Seinfeld’s “break the chain” idea. But this isn’t always practical. That said, I did my best to avoid missing two consecutive days. Sometimes that meant I spent only five or ten minutes gessoing or toning a canvas. That was enough for me. Slow progress is still progress. Tweet that.

3. Experiment with painting live on Blab.im. Blab is a new-ish site that allows live video conversations that anyone can join or watch. It’s like Google Hangout without the complexity. It shows you in a Brady-bunch like setup. It created some interesting challenges. More on this in a minute.

3 Things I Learned:

1. I still love doing abstracts. It’s fun to hear what people see in them. Everyone sees something different.

2. British rock is rather dark. Even the “cheerful” stuff. Maybe it’s the stuff I’m drawn to. Or maybe this is characteristic of all rock-and-roll. After all, most rock concerts are held at night, in dark rooms. In my mind, music is almost always performed in the dark, with a piercing spotlight on the musician. Colors emanating from darkness.

3. Painting live online is the same thing as doing a live demo in front of an audience. I have to be able to complete something quickly and talk while painting. I need to work on my lighting and sound for painting live on the Internet

What’s Next?

1. I’m ready to paint something bright. The darkness is so bleak. I want some bright colors and light and hope in my art. There’s a place for the darkness, but I don’t want to live there.

2. I want to experiment with different surfaces. I’m thinking about trying wood and masonite.

3. I need to invest in some sort of simple video setup for doing better painting videos. I also need to come up with some demonstration ideas, things I can whip out in 30 minutes. I’ll probably be studying a lot of Bob Ross videos and other painters who are great at doing demonstrations.

Finally, next year I will probably refrain from blogging about it every day, but stick to just using the hashtag and posting to social media, with a blog post summing up the week or each finished piece. Blogging daily is a lot of work, especially when it is as image-heavy as this.

Did You Participate?

Did you participate in AEDM15 back in November? Or at least follow it online? I hope you did. If you didn’t, I hope you take on a similar challenge at some point. We’ll all be here to cheer you on.

Has He Thoughts Within His Head? Days 27-30 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

January 19th, 2016

On days 27-30 of #ArtEveryDayMonth, to finish out the British-rock theme I created this piece inspired by Ozzy Osbourne’s song “Iron Man.”

I must confess I never heard the Ozzy version until now. I heard the version by The Cardigans around the same time I was listening to Oasis, which would have been the mid-to-late 90s. Both versions are awesome.

It’s a great tune that makes you wonder about vengeance and who has a right to it.

Since iron is usually black but rusts to a reddish-orange color, those were the primary colors I used, with various blues for contrast. The overall image is nonobjective, but you can almost make out a landscape or even a face. My goal was to translate the song “Iron Man” into a visual.

I think I’ve done that.

Video below. (And no, it doesn’t have the actual song because of copyright stuff, even though it is a tribute.)

After all these dark paintings this month, I’m ready to do something bright now.

Pilot of the Storm Who Leaves No Trace: Days 15-24 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

January 12th, 2016

This is by far the toughest painting I’ve worked on during Art Every Day Month 2015. I really struggled with the smooth and textured areas of the canvas. Part of the struggle was with the extreme verticality of the canvas, but I really wanted to capture the drama and ominousness of the song “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin.

Lessons learned while painting this:

  • “Kashmir” is really, really ominous when you listen to it on repeat.
  • Don’t be afraid of texture. Embrace it. But know when to paint smooth and when to reintroduce texture that you painted out.
  • I’m tired of brown and blue. Why did I get back into that pattern again after doing it for years and getting tired of it before? Old habits die hard.

Aside: Was I subconsciously influenced by Adam Hall‘s ominous paintings of scary weather? Man, he and I have got to meet for coffee one of these days. Why not, since we are both in Nashville.

Planet Earth is Blue: Days 11-14 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

November 30th, 2015

The middle of November got pretty busy, and I ran out of time to blog each day. So I’m putting up a summary of what happened for days 11 through 14.

In keeping with the British rock theme, I went with David Bowie’s 1969 hit “Space Oddity.”It’s about an astronaut who gets stranded in space. It was reissued in 1972 with a heavier sound. I prefer the earlier version, which feels more panicked at the end, where Ground Control is unable to reach Major Tom.

Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.

I created this based on the line, “Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.”

It’s a simple lyric and a simple visual. Major Tom is looking down at Earth, seemingly resigned to his fate. It’s beautiful and scary.

Video Time-Lapse

I started out by dripping pink and orange to contrast with the blue and green I knew would be dominant.

Then I covered it with blue-purple to set the stage for the black skies of outer space.

Next I created the dark sky, the aurora above the Earth, and splattered in the stars.

I got the last part of this on Blab that you can watch if you have some time to kill.

Let’s Wrap It Up [Day 10 of #ArtEveryDayMonth]

November 10th, 2015

Today I made some subtle changes to this canvas. I lightened up some of the drips to make them stand out from the background, and lightened and smoothed other areas overall.

Since there is real texture from the sand-like medium beneath the gesso, I didn’t add the usual splatters. It has plenty of texture and depth on its own.

That wraps this one up.

Are We There Yet? [Day 9 of #ArtEveryDayMonth]

November 9th, 2015

Today I learned a tough lesson in paying your web hosting bill on time. I got my painting all prepared and went to upload it to this very blog.

And it wouldn’t load.

PANIC!

Okay, breathe.

Go find that invoice and pay it.

Now update your email list with a picture of the painting so it still gets out there.

Whew. Now the site loads.

Okay, then! Done and done!

So that’s that. The painting is moving along. I had technical difficulties with the audio while doing the Blab broadcast this morning, but for the most part I think it went well.

I made progress lightening and warming up the foreground of the painting. Got some neat drips going on now.

I’m still a little concerned about the composition. Is it working? You tell me.

I feel like there is a good balance between the warm and cool areas, the areas advancing and receding, and a nice contrast between sharp and fuzzy edges plus a good overlap to tie the close and far-away areas.

Abstract painting still references reality in a lot of ways. This piece very much feels like a surreal landscape.

Being Stopped Up Won’t Stop Me – Day 8 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

November 8th, 2015

I’m still under the weather, but I’m not letting that stop me. I tuned in to CrossPoint.tv for this morning’s worship service while my wife and kids were there, but I was so stopped up I could barely hear Pastor Pete Wilson speaking even with my bluetooth headset while I painted. Here’s hoping I am cleared up tomorrow. I feel mostly OK now but I can’t hear much.

As far as the painting is concerned, I lightened it up a bit more and cooled down the color some. I think tomorrow I’ll continue the lightening effect but might bring back some of the warm colors. I think the color is working, but how about the composition? Is it cohesive? Is it disjointed?

Lighten Up – Day 7 of #AEDM15

November 7th, 2015

Day 7 of Art Every Day Month: I spent most of the day in bed but I took a few minutes to paint. I started feeling well enough to paint while my wife and kids went to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. Go figure. I lightened up the “dirty” canvas a bit. Now it’s time for me to crawl back in the bed and eat some chicken noodle soup and recover from the Fall (Autumn for everyone outside the U.S.) Sinus Crud.

And of course a Hyperlapse:

Oh, and I stole a few minutes on Blab to talk about how I mixed up those grays:

Dirty – Day 6 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

November 6th, 2015

Day 6 of Art Every Day Month has me laying the groundwork for something a bit different. It’s made up of warm and cool grays, blacks, and browns. The palette is really dirty. Like most of my paintings, it is starting out a big mess but I have at least a vague vision for what it’s going to become. And that is enough for me.

When it’s finished I’ll reveal which British rock song it’s based on. It might be somewhat obscure to some since I don’t think it was ever a single but it was on a pretty major album in the late 90s. That’s your first clue.

I’m building up a lot of depth with warm and cool tones, bringing the warm tones to the front and pushing the cool tones to the back, but eventually it will probably flatten out quite a bit.

A Luminous Abstract Painting – Day 5 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

November 5th, 2015

Day 5 of Art Every Day Month started with a bang. It felt really good to wrap up this painting I started on Sunday.

After last night’s detox bath and early bedtime I woke up feeling great. Got some coffee going and got in the studio around 5:10. I left my hearing aids out and set Blab on mute since I didn’t want to wake anyone with my talking.

First, I mixed up lighter versions of the colors I put down yesterday. The idea was to increase the light areas to give it contrast and depth. Putting light paint over dark areas makes the light even more luminous. (Tweet that.)

Then I mixed up more of the dark and light blues and the dark and light greens as well as a little bit of the orange, and made it all runny so I could splatter it on to give it that little bit of detail. It took some trial and error and wiping and experimenting with different brushes to get the right effect.

My painting professor in college told me that complexity adds interest. It’s not detail for the sake of detail. But that little bit of complexity in the splatters and the light spots makes it interesting.

That detail rewards a closer look.

Forecast: Foggy – Day 4 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

November 4th, 2015

Things got a bit hazy in the studio this morning.

got started about 5 a.m. and wrapped up about 6. I started out by brushing out the drips in the top of the canvas, and it started getting really smooth all over. It’s like a whole different painting now.

The land masses above the water line feel like they are enshrouded by fog, and the water has rays of light coming down. The orange masses are still there, primarily as a compositional and color element.

I can’t tell you what the orange things are but I dig them. If you take them away, the entire piece falls flat. They seem to be whatever is underneath the water, like these are floating islands that light up beneath the waves.

I’m pretty happy with it. Basically, everything got smooth today. Tomorrow I plan on bringing back the depth and texture that I love about this piece.

I have a feeling that will wrap it up.

See you tomorrow!

AEDM15 Day3: Whoah!

November 3rd, 2015

Not to get all Neo on you, but whoah.

The red and purple canvas made quite a few changes when I started adding the sky of blue and sea of green. Plus some orange forms. No sign of a yellow submarine yet.

Maybe we’re looking out of the yellow submarine?

I worked in two different sessions today. One at 5:30 before everyone got up and then again around 9 or 10 when everyone went to school. Today was a lot of fun!

I captured three different videos:

I recorded an hour-long Blab session, too. Had a fun conversation with someone about painting!

Day 2 of #ArtEveryDayMonth (#AEDM15)

November 2nd, 2015

This morning I was up early again and in the studio by 5:30. I didn’t spend much time actually painting since the whole canvas got pretty wet pretty fast.

Sometimes you have to paint a little, let it dry, and come back much later.

It’s acrylic paint so it was dry pretty soon after I did this, but since I had other things to do I was done for the day. I’m happy to leave it as it is for now but I’m anxious to get to the next stage!

Here’s the hyperlapse on YouTube:

How to Start #ArtEveryDayMonth: Kill the Canvas

November 1st, 2015

Here goes Day 1 of Art Every Day Month 2015!

I started off by “killing the canvas” — a trick I learned some years ago when I read Paul McCartney: Paintings. The idea is to just put down paint on the canvas without giving it too much thought so that you’re not intimidated by the blank canvas.

Since I haven’t painted in a couple of months (I’ve been hustling on freelance work lately) I was in fact a little intimidated.

Also, I was in front of the camera since I broadcast it live on Blab so I felt like I needed to talk the whole time. Which was weird since I usually paint in silence. But after about half an hour I made some progress that I feel good about. I think a few visitors showed up by accident. It seemed most were from overseas, probably due to how early it was here in the States. (6:30 a.m. Central time.)

Watch it on Blab: Day 1 of #ArtEveryDayMonth #AEDM15

I said this year’s AEDM theme for me would be British rock songs. So I’m starting off with “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles.

Yes, I’ve done a submarine-inspired piece before with my son, but this will be more Beatles-esque. Maybe. I do plan on giving it a “sea of green” in a day or two. Let’s see how this builds up.

Of course I captured a Hyperlapse of the painting session:

If you’re an artist and you want to do a live Blab with me while you’re in the studio, too, you are welcome to join me. Shoot me an email and we can coordinate a time to Blab together.

Is there something you’d like to see me paint? Maybe a British song lyric I should interpret on canvas? Just let me know. Leave a comment and let’s talk.

Falling Back into Art Every Day Month

October 30th, 2015

Here we go! It’s time to set those clocks back an hour if you live in North America. I’m not sure when the rest of the world does it, and I’m not sure why DST is a thing anymore.

It’s 2 in the afternoon on Friday, and DST doesn’t officially end until early Sunday morning November 1, but I went ahead and set the clocks back because I have little ones who will be really confused by the time change. Better ease them into it.

And in the meantime, I’m going to get some canvases gessoed today and tomorrow to get ready for Art Every Day Month.

Sunday morning I’ll be up before the sun even with the time change ready to do some art for the day. I’ll be live on Blab.im — so if you want to watch me early in the morning, you can.

I’m not sure how chatty I’ll be that early in the morning, but if you want to tune in, you’re more than welcome. And of course you’ll be able to watch the video afterward. I’ll be sure to record it on the site.

And if you want a refresher on preventing burnout during AEDM, just remember these tips:

  1. Have a plan
  2. Stick to a schedule
  3. Go to bed on time
  4. Silence your inner critic by remembering it’s about quantity, not quality.

See you next week!

4 Tips for Success During Art Every Day Month 2015

October 26th, 2015

Our writer friends are about to start NaNoWriMo (pronounced “nah-noh-rye-mo”) in a few days. The idea of National Writing Month is pretty cool: you write a 50,000-word novella in a month.

It’s a neat concept. If you break it down into doable chunks of about 1,666 words a day, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. (For perspective, this post is right around 950 words.) Joe Bunting has a really cool blog post about how to not fail at it.

Again, I love the idea, but I’m not a writer.

So I do Art Every Day Month instead.

I’ve done Art Every Day Month before several times, but last year was the first time I felt that it was at all successful because I had a specific focus: making abstract paintings with acrylic paint. I had a couple of breakthroughs in embracing abstraction and the chance nature of the acrylic paint.

This time, I’m going to stick with abstract paintings in acrylic. But here’s the twist: I’m going to use British rock as inspiration for the compositions.

Last year my inspiration was iPhone photography abstracted on canvas. This time, I’m letting British music inspire me. Everything from The Beatles to Britpop.

(Aside: Don’t ask me what’s happened in British rock since the 90s. I think Coldplay is British but they seem to me more a “band that happens to be from Britain.”)

So that’s what I’m doing for AEDM15: abstract paintings inspired by British rock. (Or I might change my mind and do all Star Wars related stuff. Who knows.)

While I’d love to complete a painting every day, I’m allowing myself to complete what I can due to client work and family responsibilities. To do otherwise might burn me out.

It’s easy to burn out and get overwhelmed when tackling any month-long project that is outside your norm. You need a plan. (Tweet that.)

How do you keep from getting burned out and hating yourself at the end of the month? Read on, my friend.

Let’s take a page from Joe Bunting at The Write Practice. Remember his post I mentioned earlier, about how to not fail at NaNoWriMo? Well, we’re going to apply some of the same principles to AEDM.

4 Tips to Keep from Burning Out During Art Every Day Month:

1. Have a plan.

Take an hour or two this week to sketch out a dozen overall concepts. They don’t have to be finished and polished. They can be rough thumbnails that you can develop and refine later. The point is to make as much art as you can, not to be perfect. (Tweet that.)

Having even a general vision ahead of time will reduce the stress of creating something. Also, constraints can do a lot to inspire creativity. It helps to have a theme. That’s why I’m focusing on interpreting British rock songs as abstract paintings.

I’ve already drafted a list of British bands/musicians that I’m inspired by, and this week I am writing out a dozen or so songs that I want to paint something for. Then I’ll sketch some thumbnails.

2. Stick to a schedule.

I recommend getting up an hour or two earlier than you normally would and get your studio time in before the day makes demands of your time. The phone doesn’t ring at 5 a.m. unless it’s an emergency.

I’m naturally a night owl, but I don’t do my best work late at night. I slow down and might as well be drunk. (Tiredness and drunkenness are practically the same thing.) While it is fun to stay up late I don’t prefer it or recommend it for doing creative work. Early morning is a good time to do good creative work.

Also, don’t have big gaps of days without doing any work. Joe Bunting advises NaNo participants to not have more than 2 skipped days in a row. The first time I did AEDM I was very unfocused and tried to “gang up” my efforts where I did several days’ worth of “work” on my lunch break and then did nothing for two weeks. It was a flop.

3. Go to bed on time.

This is the corollary to sticking to a schedule. If you are getting up early to do your art, you have to go to bed on time. Even if you are doing your work in the middle of the day, being well-rested means you are more efficient at your work.

For me this means no staying up until 1 in the morning watching X-Files on Netflix. This habit started about 10 or 11 years ago when I first had my own place all to myself — no roommate, no parents — I would stay up watching 80s reruns on Nick-at-Night or whatever was on Sci-Fi Channel.

So on October 31, I am deleting the Netflix app off my iPad mini and not reinstalling it until December 1. I may even have my wife change the password to something I can’t guess.

4. Postpone judgement — silence the inner critic

It’s all about quantity and producing as much as you can without paying attention to how “good” it is.

That said, I’m not shooting for a piece a day. I’ve tried that before and it burned me out and I unintentionally went on an 18-month hiatus from making art of any kind.) If what I make is good, great. If not, I just move on and make something else.

The point of #aedm15 is to create every day. If I’ve made art today, it’s been a good day. (Tweet that.)

#AEDM15

So if you want to create something new every day for the month, just use the #AEDM15 hashtag on social media. I’ll be on the lookout for you.I’ve already drafted a list of British bands/musicians that I’m inspired by, as well as a dozen or so songs that I want to paint something for. Then I’ll sketch some thumbnails. What’s your next step?

Reflecting on Art Every Day Month #AEDM14

December 2nd, 2014

Well, Art Every Day Month 2014 is finally over. I want to take a few minutes to look back and assess how this month of making art every day went. I achieved some of my goals, discovered some new techniques, and had a lot of fun doing the challenge.

First of all, I want to take stock of the goals I set going into this and see how I did. Next, I want to look at what didn’t work well. Then, some takeaways and lessons that I learned throughout the process. Finally, I have an audio message at the end of this post where I sum up some thoughts about the whole experiment.

Achieving Goals

When I announced that I was going to do the Art Every Day Month challenge, I set some goals:

  1. I want to get better at painting.
  2. I want to build my body of work.
  3. Finally, I want to use this as a tool for building my email list.

I think I did pretty well for the first two goals. I feel like my painting got better, and I learned a lot in just a month. I built my body of work by creating 5 solid new pieces. My email list actually stayed pretty much the same. I lost some subscribers, but I gained as many as I lost. I need to find a way to grow that list!

What didn’t work

Maybe it’s not so much what didn’t work as what was an inconvenience. Blogging each day’s progress required a lot of work. It took as long as 3 hours from the moment I picked up my brush to the time I finished sharing on social media.

The process is something like this:

  1. set up paints, mix up colors just right before hitting record on the iPad, which also has to be set up just right
  2. paint for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much time I have
  3. shoot photos for Instagram and the blog
  4. edit the video and the photos
  5. upload photos and video
  6. write the blog post, proofing and editing several times before publishing
  7. share to various social media outlets in the appropriate format

While it is fun, the administrative stuff around blogging it is time-consuming.

Takeaways and lessons learned

I painted 18 days. For a 30-day month that is just over half. Which doesn’t sound all that great, to be honest. That said, I was sick for about a week, and then the Thanksgiving holiday made me miss a day, but overall I feel good about the time I spent in the studio. I feel like I’ve gained a lot of momentum just from what I’ve done so far.

I had a few surprises. I embraced the acrylic paint medium when I normally use oil, mainly because I knew I wanted to work more quickly than usual since acrylic is fast-drying. But the real surprises for me were in the way I embraced abstraction. It’s funny because I have never painted from a purely abstract mode so exclusively. But a few years ago I found myself drawn to abstract painting and suspected I might at some point transition to painting that way myself. Well, here I am.

Be open to possibilities. The purplethengreen abstract I did was going to be something else entirely, but I felt like the canvas “wanted” to be what it became.

I realized that what I am imagining in my head may not be as great as what is possible. So I need to be open to that.

Along these lines comes a looser interpretation of what I see in a photograph and what gets put on canvas. Everything I painted this month was based on a photograph in some form, even the most abstract. But the paint took priority over everything else.

Know when to quit. I’m not sure I’m closer to knowing when this is, but I experienced that “woah, I just did too much” feeling a time or two. Then there are times you just have to step away for a day or two until your brain can solve the problem unconsciously.

Multimedia is fun. It was fun to create the videos and the accompanying audio. I think this is the future of content creation and I’ll definitely be doing more of it, time-consuming as it is. It’s worth it.

I need to find a better time-lapse solution. When I noticed that all my iPad time lapse videos were around 30 seconds, even if I painted for 30 minutes or an hour, it became clear that iOS “automagically” shortens time-lapse videos without asking you how long or fast you want it to be. So I will be looking for a better way to capture video so I can speed it up just the way I want. Know of any good options?

Brad Blackman AudioBlog!

Here’s a Voice Memo I recorded on my iPhone on the drive to my day job one morning toward the end of the month. I recount some of the same things I mentioned above but in a different way. Please forgive the car noises in the background.

What’s next?

I’ll probably continue to embrace abstraction as well as “fog” and allow the canvas to become what it wants. I’m also going to be experimenting more with video and audio.

What did you think?

I’d love your feedback on how the whole month-long experiment went. If you did it, too, how was it? What did you come away with?

Post-AEDM work in progress: creating fog

December 1st, 2014

While Art Every Day Month is over, I am still working on this little abstract I started toward the end. You’ll recall that I flooded it with colorful drips, almost in a rainbow configuration, and then added a dark mass in the bottom half.

Today I brought in some blue tones and muted the whole thing down. It’s much more quiet now, and it has a feeling of fog, which I think is important in the development of my work. Fog is such a strong metaphor for me especially as I am bringing up three small children and emerging from my mid-thirties. (I guess I’m on the downward slide to 40 now.)

Anyway, here’s today’s progress. Of course I made a video for you to watch. Once I get this piece finished I’ll stitch the videos all together so you can see each AEDM painting come to life from start to finish.

Can’t see the video? Then go here.

I wanted to work on this yesterday afternoon, but I wound up taking a nap on the couch with my four-year old son. That was clearly the better choice, even when he put his arm over my face.

Colorful drips! Day 29 of Art Every Day Month/AEDM14

November 29th, 2014

This morning I got some colorful drips on a new canvas. It is fun dripping paint all over canvas like this. It is harder than it looks since I want the color just right, and I want the drips to go a certain way sometimes. The trick is you have to work with gravity, not against it.

It is the next to the last day of the month, and thus the next to the last day of the Art Every Day Month challenge. I’m hoping to work on this again tomorrow and possibly later today, but we will see if time permits.

I’m going to let this dry and if I have time I’ll work on it more today. (I have a commission to start, the leaves need chopping, and the kids need time with their daddy.)

So, I’ll leave you with this time-lapse of today’s progress. (Also, I’m firmly convinced iOS makes every time-lapse video 30 seconds, whether if you record for 10 minutes or an hour.)

As always, if you can’t see the video, it is on YouTube.

Here’s a color-corrected, detailed shot. If you want to make a print of it as it is, knock yourself out! Just use the links below the image.

Thinking like a princess: sparkle! Day 27 of #ArtEveryDayMonth

November 27th, 2014

I got up super-early to get some work done on this, and it paid off. What you see in the video below is an hour’s worth of work. (Is it me, or does the time-lapse mode on the iPad mini compress every video to 30 seconds?)

Most of what I did today was tighten up the details. Overall, I gave the painting some sparkle, which sounds like something in one of the princess books my elementary-age daughter reads. I reintroduced the light blue-green color and cleaned up the line between the two orange areas in the bottom portion of the canvas. I brought back some drips which I think emphasize and embrace the nature of the paint.

I rotated the canvas a few times to check the composition. I added that green fleck at the top when I put the piece on its side and realized it needed something over there to balance it out. (Another trick I’ve heard is to look at it in the mirror.)

Without further ado, here’s today’s time-lapse video:

If you can’t see it, just point your browser to this page on YouTube.

So what do you think? Did this one work? Does it fall flat? I gotta tell you, abstract art was not something I ever planned on doing. But I think I like it. I’ve spent most of the past 17 years in front of a computer, and it feels good to work with something that gets my hands dirty. Embracing the paint and what the canvas wants to become has actually been pretty liberating, if a little scary.

Any suggestions for what I should name this one?

The struggle continues (Day 26 of #AEDM14)

November 26th, 2014

Well today the struggle with this abstract blue and orange piece continues. I have heard from some people that they really like this piece and I shouldn’t do anything else to it, but I have something else in mind for it but the feedback has been so positive on Facebook and Instagram that I doubt myself!

What about you, what do you think? Part of me really wants to tighten up the implied horizon in the lower quarter of the canvas and reintroduce that light blue-green color where the white meets the black.

When do you know when it is time to quit?

Of course, here is a video of today’s work. If you can’t see it, check it out on YouTube here.

Here’s a bigger version of the picture:

When your painting puts up a fight (#AEDM14 Day 25)

November 25th, 2014

My painting session this morning for day 25 of AEDM proved difficult as the painting put up a bit of a fight. It just didn’t really want to cooperate. (As if the painting can cooperate with me. Yet I think in a sense it does.) Maybe it’s all this darkness getting to me. It depresses me a little. Yet I think in the end there will be some glimmer of hope here. At least I hope there will!

(Can’t see the video? Go here to watch it on YouTube.)

An Ominous Mass (Day 24 of #ArtEveryDayMonth / #AEDM14)

November 24th, 2014

Wow, the month is drawing to a close. Day 24 of #ArtEveryDayMonth sees this bright blue and orange canvas turn rather dark and ominous. There’s a lot of blue going on here now. I am sure I’ll find a way to brighten it back up, but I think as with lots of things, it will get darker before it gets brighter.

(If you can’t see the video, go here.)

Day 24 of #arteverydaymonth. Added a big ominous mass. Blog post to come.

A post shared by Brad Blackman (@bradblackman) on

What do you think of this piece so far? I’d love to hear from you.

Let’s make things brighter (Day 23 of #ArtEveryDayMonth)

November 23rd, 2014

On day 23 of Art Every Day Month, I got up pretty early and got to work by 4:40 in the morning. I decided my little canvas had too much “mud” from the way the blue and orange ran together yesterday, so I turned it on its side and added more blue and orange to make them much brighter and drip “sideways” instead of “vertically.” I filled in the white area with yellow. Since the yellow is pretty translucent, I applied it with a palette knife to make it thicker and brighter.

I’m pretty excited about this one. I was excited about the last one, too, but it took on a life of its own. I kind of expect this one to do the same.

Here’s the video:

(Can’t see it? Go watch it on YouTube here.)

Time-lapse video: Finishing the green abstract for Day 20 of #AEDM14

November 20th, 2014

Day 20 of Art Every Day Month had me finishing up the small green abstract painting I’ve been working on the past few days.

I didn’t do anything on day 19 — I had other obligations and I was stuck on how to wrap this one up. It needed something in the foreground, something to break it up a little. Something light and atmospheric.

So I added little dots and splatters. It seems to have done the job!

(Can’t see the video? Go here.)

Here’s the finished piece. I haven’t decided on a name yet, but it is 12 x 12 inches, acrylic on canvas.

#AEDM14 Day 18: Underwater Haze

November 18th, 2014

Art Every Day Month I flipped this guy around and brought back the green, building it up into a haze. It feels like it is underwater now, doesn’t it? I kind of like it the way it is but I have plans for it.

What do you think? Should keep pushing it or does it looks fine the way it is?

Time-Lapse Video, of Course

And what would an AEDM post from me be without a time-lapse video? By the way, at the end of the month I plan on publishing full videos of the dailies all put together so you can see paintings evolve from start to finish.

Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/uqHvD0-m_M8

#AEDM14 Day 17: Evolution

November 17th, 2014

In today’s #AEDM14 challenge, we see things evolve a bit for this canvas. The green makes a comeback in a big way.

It’s been a lot of fun working in acrylic for a change. I thin the paint with a lot of water and let it drip everywhere. When you watch the time-lapse videos you really get the sense of the whole mass of paint sliding downward toward the bottom of the canvas. Look at the drips collecting at the bottom.

Gravity does some interesting things. I like embracing the drips and incorporating that into the overall design of the piece.

So here’s the video for today. Watch this canvas evolve into a green-and-gray composition. That line between the green and the black-ish color will become a horizon.

(If you’re reading this in your email and you can’t see the video, go here!)

#AEDM14 Day 16: the Purple Haze gets some more color

November 16th, 2014

Whew, what a day today. I didn’t get in the studio until after the kids went to bed. Remember yesterday’s purple haze? Well, now it’s got some more color. Some blue-green and red-orange.

It is kind of a muddy mess right now but keep an eye on it this week. It’s going to be interesting.

Can’t see the video because you’re looking at this in an email? Go here: http://youtu.be/2OaMemMYNik

#AEDM14 Day 15: Purple Haze

November 15th, 2014

Man, it felt so good to get in the studio today. I wrapped up a time-lapse video and shot some paintings that I’ve finished recently. They’ll be going in the portfolio section as soon as I get the images cleaned up and color-corrected. I’ll be adding them to my Etsy shop soon. More on that later.

But now, here’s today’s piece. I started a new canvas and toned it purple and red-orange. I have plans to turn it into something interesting soon. Watch this space!

Can’t see the video? Find it on YouTube.

#AEDM14 Day 14: Color!

November 14th, 2014

After being sick last week, it took me a while to get caught back up and find the time to get back in the studio.

The little abstract piece evolved. A lot.

I have to admit this is a bit out of the norm for me, a little scary, even, since it is so different from what I usually do.

But I really like where this is going. I feel like this is the direction I want my work to take in the future. This sort of hazy feel.

When I filmed it, I split it into two videos since in between I had to dig around for some colors and mix them up.

Part 1

Can’t see it? Click here or browse to http://youtu.be/gt239t9IXoc.

Part 2

Can’t see it? Click here or browse to http://youtu.be/24vE8yAeOHA.

#AEDM14 Day 10: Make it Gold

November 10th, 2014

So last week was rough. I was sick for five days with the Tennessee Crud, a catch-all term for the allergy/sinus thing lots of people tend to get this time of year. Four of the five of us in my family got it in some form or another. Only my daughter emerged unscathed.

I got to watch Frozen, oh, six times. I think that only counts the times I was actually awake for it, when I wasn’t sleeping off NyQuil or Mucinex or whatever.

Unfortunately I missed my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration.

But I was fortunate enough to wake up this morning feeling relatively okay and ready to dive back into this thing called Art Every Day Month.

I gave that little abstract canvas a coat of gold-tan acrylic. If you haven’t noticed by now I am gradually covering this thing with lots of thin, transparent layers of paint. I have something of an end in mind but it may surprise me.

Check out the video below, or click here if you can’t see it.

#AEDM14 Day 5: Small Abstract Painting

November 5th, 2014

I managed to get up at 4:30 despite another sinus headache and got a little more done on my small abstract piece.

Today we have pink!

#AEDM14 Day 4: Small Abstract Painting

November 4th, 2014

I have found that if I’m going to do art on a particular day, I have to do it first thing in the morning. Get it done before all my other obligations take priority.

But on Day 2, I woke up with a fever.

I knew when I went to bed the night before I wasn’t feeling to hot, but it turned out to be bad sinus congestion that had me in bed all day. If I rewind a bit, I realize that on Halloween I got chilled while walking to the train to head home. That wind was bitter!

While I could’ve done a sketch or something in bed on Day 2, I never did it. I felt too bad and all my creative energy was drained.

On Day 3, thankfully I was fever-free, but I didn’t get up early enough.

I did mess around with an iPad photo using the Mextures app, but since one of my goals of this challenge is to develop my painting skills I didn’t feel like it was worth “entering” for the challenge. It would be different if getting better at mobile photo editing was what I wanted to focus on, but it isn’t.

But today I was up at 4:09 and I got started on a new painting.

At 8 x 10 inches it’s a small one for me, since I prefer to work three or four times this size. However, I this sort of challenge is perfect for trying out new ideas or techniques before taking them to larger scales. Sometimes these small explorations turn out better than the big pieces since there is so much spontaneity.

So I started a small abstract. I dripped pale green acrylic paint, mixing in more green or more blue in some places, and just letting it run down from either side, flipping it around as needed. It’s not much, but it was fun to get in the studio at least for a few minutes.

(Can’t see the timelapse video? Click here to view it on YouTube, or enter this in your browser: http://youtu.be/ZeVHeAKbRos)

But before I could get any painting done, I had to get the space heater hooked up. I didn’t want to get sick again!

AEDM14 Day 1: Finishing a sunrise painting (video)

November 1st, 2014

For the first day of Art Every Day Month 2014, I finished up a painting that I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.

Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube!

The best part of the day was when my almost six-year-old daughter joined me in the studio after her little brothers went to bed. She was so excited and she produced two 8 x 10 inch paintings. I think she is hooked!

When she was two I did a video where I talked about my studio area, and she obviously stole the show. She is definitely an artist in training, that one!

Invitation: Join Me in Art Every Day Month 2014

October 21st, 2014

Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month. (I’m Not sure why it is national since it is on the internet, but who cares, right?)

The idea behind Nanowrimo is you write a 50,000-word novel in a month.

50,000 words is not too long, but it is enough to account for something. It’s a novella, basically.

And why November? I don’t know. I guess you have to start somewhere.

I always thought it was a neat idea, but I’m not a fiction writer.

Sure, I blog, and I would like to write a book at some point, but writing fiction is just not for me. So I dismissed the Nanowrimo idea. I mean, I’m proud of my friends who do it, but writing a novel is just not my thing.

But about five years ago, it came back up again in my mind, and I thought, “hey what if I take that same Nanowrimo idea and apply it to making something visual?” I figured I would make something every day for a month, and I called it “30-in-30” for 30 pieces of art created in 30 days.

So I made something every day for a month, almost every day, mostly photographs taken with my somewhat new DSLR or a really awful little camera phone. I only did one painting.

The experiment turned out okay. But I think what I should have done was have a tighter focus on the whole endeavour. I should have spent more time painting. I think I was afraid of it for some reason. I didn’t really have the space at the time, either, since we were living with my parents.

The real problem was I cheated.

What I did was I would go out on my lunch break and take photos. Some days I would get a lot of good photos I could be proud of, say, 4 or 5 in one session, and call it a day.

I said to myself, “All right! I have four days’ worth!”

So of course, I wouldn’t do anything for the next seven days. I didn’t reap the benefit of the exercise.

It’s like with physical exercise: you can’t do four day’s worth of, say, running, and then not run for four days.

For one thing, you’ll injure yourself.

Secondly you don’t get the benefit of doing the work. You get better at something by doing it regularly and continually, not a whole lot at once. (Tweet that.)

A commitment for November 2014

Art Every Day Month by Leah Kolidas. I knew I wasn’t the only one to think of this sort of thing, so I was excited to find an already existing community around this idea.

So this year, I am going to commit to Art Every Day Month 2014.

But now I know if I want my AEDM14 experiment to be a success, I have to have a couple of goals so I can see some kind of change once the month is over. Unless I have measurable objectives, I’ll flounder and get bored and frustrated like I did before.

Goals for AEDM 2014:

  1. I want to get better at painting. I feel like my “painting muscles” have atrophied. I’m just out of practice.
  2. I want to build my body of work. I feel like because I have not done much work the past few years I have not lived up to what I am probably capable of. I have not progressed to where I think I should have by now. I don’t think I’ve produced the amount of work I think I should have produced by this point in my life. (Granted, I’ve been doing some other very important work: raising three small children.)
  3. Finally, I want to use this as a tool for building my email list. This is probably the most important thing from a marketing perspective. It’ll be a great way to build my tribe and extend my reach.

So for a month, people who subscribe to my email list or RSS Feed will have something fun to look at every morning. I hope it is something they’ll enjoy. I know I’ll enjoy it, too.

What I won’t do

As interesting as the small daily painting format is, it is not for me. It’ll only lead me to burnout. This is because I like to paint big.

I want you to join me!

I think it’ll be a very rewarding way to spend my time, and I want to invite you to do the same. I know I will have to work hard at getting up early every morning and getting in the studio to knock something out before I head in to my day job, but I imagine plenty of you out there will do the same. After all, our writer friends will be working on their novels before the sun comes up, too!

Or if you’d just rather see what I make that’s fine, too.

Will you join me? C’mon! You know you want to.