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March 1, 2011

Of dexterity and tiny portraits.

Filed under: Studies — tb @ 10:49 am

For awhile now, I’ve been meaning to push my dexterity and indicating skills.  It’s something I’ve always meant to work on, but somehow managed to squirm out of, until recently.  Several weeks back I went ahead and cornered myself, so to speak, by cutting my stack of masonite down to pieces no larger than 5×7.  I gesso’d the boards up, and off to class I went, my hopes high that my indicating skills would up dramatically and (due to the smaller size of the canvas) I would get a more “finalized” portrait in a small window of time…

I found that during the first life-painting, I got *less* done that I would have on a 9×12 board.  To add insult to injury, it looked as if I painted the face with a baseball bat.

What the crap.

In situations like this, when you’re thinking ambitiously and your hopes are high, your mind acts like that guy with the shells game down by the subway stop, and it can con you out of a good painting if you’re not careful.  I hadn’t realized that I was working slower on the portrait than I normally would have, my mind subconsciously believing that I had more time, *not* that I had less canvas to cover.  There’s a big difference between those two things.  In addition, I was painting with a hugely-wrongly-terribly-sized bristle brush.  As a general rule of thumb, you often are told “use large brushes.”  That means use brushes that are appropriately large to what you’re painting, not “use large brushes,” period.  Alas, another trick my shady, subway con-artist mind pulled on me.

At the end of the day though, these are all things I already knew.  The lesson to be learned here is BE PRESENT IN YOUR ART!  Focus, think, analyze, execute.  Once I started exercising the rules and lessons I already knew, I started making progress on my tiny paintings.  I do feel my dexterity has been improving, but only because I’ve been making a conscious effort to do as much.  Progress can only be made when you don’t let your mind con you out of a good painting.

In closing, here’s a few of those 5×7 portraits that I feel were successes.  I had a blast doing these and I’ve learned quite a bit from them.  That said,  I’m planning on pushing forward and carrying on this practice of tiny portraits for a bit longer.  I’m going to win this game of shells, folks..  Or least lose 20 bucks trying.

 Feathers and Scarves



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  1. […] may remember a post from a few weeks back where I announced a “paint tiny” excericise, in which I forced myself to paint no larger than 5×7 in an effort to try and improve my […]

    Pingback by Rusty Innards»Blog Archive » Doug and his Lovely Hats: A post concerning failure, progress, and the importance of leaving your comforts behind. — April 5, 2011 @ 9:15 pm
  2. Great idea!! They look awesome!!

    Comment by Jeff — April 23, 2011 @ 3:21 pm
  3. Thanks Jeff! Like I said, they were a ton of fun to do, and I feel like stepping out of my comfort zone really helped push my skills.

    Comment by tb — April 23, 2011 @ 6:00 pm
  4. can I have the abe one? or a print? or a hug?

    Comment by Julie — June 20, 2012 @ 10:07 am

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