The Completion of an Oil Painting a Day Throughout January for the Stradaeasel Challenge.
On the 1st January I returned home at 7am from working overnight on NYE. Before going to sleep, I decided to go and sit on the beach, even with heavy eyelids and the sun shining intensely, to spend some time to reflect on the start of the first day of the year, and think about what I wanted to achieve in the days, weeks and months ahead. Not long after I went home, I had a shower, went to bed and slept for about 3 hours, and then woke up with just a few more hours to spare before my next shift, but determined to start and finish an oil painting, my first one out of 31 that I would work on each day throughout the month after hearing about the Stradaeasel challenge to paint every day from life. I was feeling positive, I decided to go for it.
On Day 1 I walked down the stairs, made myself breakfast and set up my first still life and paint materials. After a few hours of tired, but undistracted painting alone in my kitchen, Day 1 was complete. I posted to social media and announced my commitment to the January challenge. I was even more determined this time, as I did not manage to complete all of the days for the Inktober challenge in October, which I was personally disappointed about. And this time I had an even stronger desire to go all the way no matter what.
Throughout January I had to work a lot overnight, there were days when I woke up late in the afternoon, with little time to spare to get an oil painting complete, and then posted onto social media for the challenge. But I made sure that I turned up every day, and got the work done however I felt, and made sure I posted my work later on at night if it was completed at the last minute.
The additional small, daily challenges outside of actual painting;
An oil painting a day, involving not just taking action by applying marks on a canvas, but having to set everything up, including moving everything to a location by foot, organising subject matter, taking into consideration weather conditions, movement of the sun, timing, mixing all of the colours to the best of my ability, cleaning everything up and packing everything away at the end, every day, proved to be an even greater test than an Ink Sketch/Illustration a day for October/Inktober.
On top of all of the inevitable extra effort required on this daily oil painting challenge, I was also working full time night shift hours for most of the month. Some days I woke up with lack of motivation, low energy, and sometimes feeling physically and mentally drained from working all night, serving people and giving my best for my other job. Some days I felt Irritated from overtiredness, my cats walking over everything I attempted to set up, constantly jumping up onto the surface I was working on out of curiosity, walking on my paint palette, and getting in my way, almost tripping me up by sprinting through each of my foot steps as I walked groggily into the kitchen each morning to make a coffee, when they were also hungry and thirsty. But I knew this was just due to working late and lack of sleep. One night I used this to my advantage and decided to paint Clea, the female cat of my house as she decided to lie down and rest in front of me.
Some days I would wake up ready to start painting straight away, and I had a lot of interactions with people exercising and walking along the beach, many who would stop and talk with me about my painting, and other things. Others would smile, wave and give a thumbs up, one other tried to hit me with an egg from an opposite apartment block!
Some days I didn’t actually feel like painting, I would start one, then wipe it clean, go inside and turn on music or one of my favourite podcasts, which at times helped me a lot, especially ‘Your Creative Push’. Sometimes I enjoyed listening and learning about deeper topics into psychology, history and conspiracy, before, during and after painting, In particular, the new ‘Unslaved’ podcast.
But despite dealing with each new daily situation, varying energy levels, minor sleep deprivation, limited amounts of time and often difficult environmental factors, I persevered, and finally made it to the finish line.
What did I discover on this journey?
I may have started many days without my usual spark, but what I discovered was, by turning up and applying myself to create every day and finish a painting, that spark would reignite, and many times burn brightly. I mostly left the house feeling upbeat, elated, happy, with more energy, and experiencing extra bursts of waves of optimism and positivity, which I was able to take with me into my night job. The very act of painting in the moment generated a great feeling of joy inside, and the feeling that followed the completion of each painting, even better.
Was it the act of working with colours, which elevated how I felt? Or was it the act of creating itself, by doing what I love to do? I’m sure being out in nature, having that private time to myself, the enjoyment of the process and sharing it with others also played a part.
It was also an immense feeling to first overcome my previous record of 21 Illustrations in a row, then to the final week, then to the completion of the final day. Some were painted ‘Plein Air’ (outside) and all apart from one were painted ‘Alla Prima’ (In one go/session).
Interestingly I also discovered that words of encouragement came at times when I did actually need it, through emails, comments and speaking with people directly. Thank you to those who did encourage me!
What did I learn about myself on this journey?
I reinforced my own belief in my self and my own ability that I am capable of completing a difficult creative challenge, under a range of testing conditions, and knowing that I could do it. I learned that I could persevere and push through, even on days with little motivation. I learned that from a previous failure, I would not give up, or refuse to challenge myself again, that I would come back stronger, better equipped, and with greater drive for each daily effort.
I learned that I could perform well even with no pre-planning. Each painting was spontaneous, and was decided and acted upon each day and within each moment. I learned that I was capable of making myself feel very good inside consistently by creating and finishing Art on a daily basis.
Overall I am very happy with how the challenge went, I will now look to sell my paintings, although it won’t be so easy to let them all go, so I can buy more materials and equipment for my next creative journey.
So here are all 31 Paintings;
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