Being Consistent


You just got back from a great workshop. You learned a LOT and had a great time with the other students. You got inspired. You vow to find more time to paint. But you get home and life sets in and you keep putting off painting and six months later you find your art stuff has a light layer of dust on it.

Most of us have lives outside of art. Regular jobs, families, and other responsibilities. We want to get better at our painting but we really don’t have time for it…or do we? Here are some tips to consider to help you create some consistency in your art life.

1. Set up a permanent work area. You really don’t need a huge space. Talk to your spouse or partner about setting up a committed area in your home or apartment so as to avoid unnecessary set up and break down time. If you fear it’s unsightly when guests come over, find a creative way to hide it. A Japanese screen. A decorative curtain.

2. Schedule consistent time to paint. Yeah, I know, you’re laughing at me already. But get creative and be determined. Also, don’t derail yourself by thinking you have to block out huge amounts of time. One hour is better than nothing. Even thirty minutes a day, or every other day, will be beneficial to your craft.

3. Be healthy. Eat right and exercise regularly. I’ll not insult you by listing the benefits. You already know them. Just do it!

4. Join an art club or co-op studio. Find a place locally where you can join others in consistently scheduled painting sessions. I get together with a group most Friday mornings to paint the portrait from life. It’s great practice and I find working in a group setting to be energizing. If something like this is not available in your area, look harder, you might be wrong. If all else fails, start your own group.

5. Plan to enter a contest. I think one of the best ways to help keep you consistent is to find an art competition and plan to submit an entry. This can help motivate you and keep you on track with your schedule. There are lots of competitions and contests out there for artists of all levels. If you’re not world class yet find something local and low key. Just give it a try. Check out this website for some ideas:

6. Set achievable goals for yourself. I think many aspiring artists set the bar WAY TOO HIGH for themselves at the beginning which can set them up for failure and disappointment. Set up smaller projects. Do something that’s not going to take you six months. Succeeding in smaller projects that won’t take too long will not only grow your abilities and confidence, it will eventually propel you to larger and more ambitious projects.

7. Define a stylistic path. Once you can create some consistency in your painting schedule, capitalize on it by being consistent in your artistic direction. Defining a path can take some time and soul searching, so don’t rush it. I’ve seen many people jump from style to style. They attend many workshops with teachers who paint very differently from one another. The result is they NEVER master anything. Now some people just love this. They don’t really care about getting better. They just like the excitement and fun of attending workshops. I get it. But if you really want to get good at what you do, you need to settle into a particular methodology and master it. I touch on this in another post “Dave’s Tips to Becoming a Better Artist”. Check out points 2, 3, and 4.

Have a great day!


16 thoughts on “Being Consistent”

  1. Hello, It is good to see and read this posting as it reminds everyone and myself..that everyone and myself have the same struggles to do our art and to get better. Community involvement is well as the social connections all humans need. And the importance of having that space, be it studio or a corner or partly in a closet…as mind is…that this helps reduce the excuses and to get down to work. I have also found that physically writing in a log…of what I did, how I feel about it…etc..helpful for remembering things…as well as another desire not to leave days blank. Whatever works. Oh and get off that darn computer for awhile and away from that T.V. You can watch the episode of public television or Big Bang Theory another day…Doing your work is better for your soul anyways. It gives you that proverbial hug to yourself that this is good and yours. Now go get to the making of your art. Thanks


  2. i enjoy your work and watching your videos. After the last video I watched re glazing I have a question: do you ever use Liquin for this? And also, you were concerned not to glaze too many times, something about the build up of walnut oil? Or was it for some other reason. I know some people warn against using retouch varnish too and I don’t know why. If you’ve already addressed this in a previous blog could you send me the link?

    Thank you very much. Sheila


    1. Hi Sheila,

      Excellent question. Yes, you can use Liquin for this if you wish, though I would recommend thinning it with mineral spirits. Yes, oiling out too many times is not good because it starts to impart too much oil to the paint film. This weakens the film and is not good for it’s archival quality. I don’t see a problem with using retouch varnish as long as you don’t over use it. Too much varnish in a paint film is said to be undesirable. I sometimes use spray retouch varnish. It’s a weak solution so I don’t feel bad about using it as needed.

      The best paint films are the simplest paint films. Just the right ratio of oil and pigment. When the ratio is overbalanced one way or the other it’s not good. Too many additives such as varnish or other resins start to be questionable as to creating a long lasting film. I’m no chemist. My mantra is to keep everything in moderation. However, I also don’t think you should lose too much sleep about it, either. I would prioritize having fun and getting the effect you want.




  3. David, thanks for that reminder list! I do a lot of them already but more is better. I have been doing more painting in the last few months since I took your class on Whidbey Island. You really inspired and jump started me in the right direction. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m afraid I’m guilty of #6, setting my goals too high – but then I have to ask myself … “are they too high, really?” I firmly believe that to become better, one must set the goal higher each time you face that blank canvas. My aim is to become as good as I can doing photorealism. The problem is I am not consistent about working at it everyday. I’m going to try to be better in this new year.


  5. Hello David,
    WOW! I’m in awe of your work! I’ve been painting in pastels for 9 years now (see and I love, love, love pastels. I always said when the kids are grown and off to school, I’m going to train in oils. Well, I’m doing just that and I am NOT loving it. Pastels came naturally for me but I’m really struggling with oils: mixing the colors, lack of knowledge on how to proceed in portraiture, i.e. what’s the process. A blank canvas is very intimidating. I noticed on Facebook you have a progression of a portrait, and it looks like you do an under-painting in just values. Do you teach that process in your workshops? Three days is not a lot of time. I really want to make this happen but I’m struggling so. It’s taken the joy out of art and that’s terrible! Any advice?


    1. Your bar is too high, in my opinion. This is not like riding a bike, unfortunately. It’s a little more like brain surgery. You need time to develop your skills. I teach my normal progression in my workshops, which inludes a colored underpainting, not a grisaille. I recommend a workshop or class. Not necessarily with me, though I would welcome that. When I hit a wall I look for training. That’s what you should do. Best, DG


      1. That’s exactly what I’m doing: I’m training under the same person who taught me pastels as well as getting together with her bi-weekly to just hang out and paint. And yes, you are correct in saying that “I set the bar too high.” Perfectionism is deadly – it takes all the enjoyment out of art and kills my joy. I know I need to embrace the process and accept it for what it is, a learning process. I would like to take your workshop, later this year, when you’re in LA. I live in TX now but I’m from LA and visit frequently. So hopefully I’ll have a chance to learn from the best.
        Thanks for the advice.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Perfectionism can be a double edged sword. We need it but we can let it make us miserable about our art. I’ve been there many times. I’ve learned to accept my limitations and just do the best with what I have. I’ve been able to enjoy the journey much more that way. I think it has allowed for more free flowing evolution of my skill sets.

          I would love if you could come to LA! Hope it works out.


  6. Hi David,
    That’s a great list. For inspiration on creating habits to increase productivity, I highly recommend reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey ( Currey profiles over 160 creative people (painters, writers, scientists, etc.) and describes how they structure their day to maximize their creative output. The methods are all over the place, but they are insightful and entertaining. After reading this book, I started carving out 30 mins to an hour every morning to draw or paint. Improving in one’s craft is a function of consistency and time, not creative genius.
    Thanks for sharing this post, and all the best to you in 2015.
    Best, Doug


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