How to Maximize Return on Painting Effort

In my early painting days when I ran into difficulty with some part of a painting, I had to pull out art books, magazines or whatever else I could lay my hands on to look for ways in which other artists had solved the problem. I would often end up going back to the same few pages of a book because I could find little else to help me.

Fortunately, things are different now. My painting career has run in parallel with the availability of affordable digital cameras. Today, after 16 years of painting full time, I have my entire portfolio available to use as a reference whenever I need it.

That means whenever I'm working on a landscape which needs more interest I can simply steal from myself—browse my portfolio to find some interesting elements and place them in the new landscape.

That's what happened in this new painting. I recycled lot of ideas and picture elements that I'd developed in previous works. In truth, I couldn't have painted it without previous forays into things like color palette, textures and rendering animals in the landscape.


Sheep grazing in a yellow field

Lowlands. 16x28, oil on hemp linen. 2018.


Close up of a painting showing paint textures

Bonus: A close up showing paint textures

I think of this as maximizing my return on effort. Every time I develop a solution to a problem I'm not just using it once then forgetting about it, I'm adding to a knowledge bank that I can tap into time and time again. When an idea is reused, it gets refined and added back into the portfolio. It becomes a virtuous circle.

Once upon a time, before Facebook and social media got off the ground, someone asked on an art forum what was one thing that differentiated professional artists from amateur artists. It stuck with me because I couldn't think of a simple response.

I don't believe the answer is anything that's technique related, because we're all so different. But I'm starting to realize that the size of the portfolio is the biggest difference between full-time painters and hobbyists. And having ready access to a library of things that can be called on whenever needed is something that I'm only just starting to fully appreciate.


I've recently done away with the comments section. If you have questions or comments, please contact me directly. Links from other blogs are always welcome.