What I Learned from a Month of Painting Every Day

watercolor, daily painting, botanical paintings, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I painted more than 30 paintings in September. 31 small/quick daily paintings (I painted 2 quilt blocks for one day because I didn't initially like the first one). Add the two pages I painted in the 2x2 Sketchbook (here and here), a large tomato painting,

watercolors, watercolor tomato painting, green tomatoes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

a gouache experiment,

gouache painting, turquoise pitcher, red poppies, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

a nasturtium bouquet

watercolor nasturtiums, watercolor bouquet, nasturtium bouquet, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

and the painting of black and blue salvia that I put the finishing touches on after we'd stepped into October...

watercolor hummingbird, watercolor flowers, botanical watercolor, black and blue salvia, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

and it's 37.

I'm not bragging or asking for praise. That's not my point. My point is simply this: painting begets painting. The more I painted, the more I painted. Maybe that sounds silly or simplistic, but it's true. One painting or experiment would lead to another. One idea would spark another idea.

watercolor paintings, watercolor sunflowers, watercolor sunflower heads, autumn sunflowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It was fun to work on painting the same subject in a series over a number of days. Usually I'm painting larger or more involved paintings that take several days (or longer) for me to complete. By the time a painting is finished I'm ready to move onto another subject. Not so in this case.

watercolor nasturtiums, watercolor flowers, nasturtium paintings, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

One appealing aspect of this challenge was that I needed to begin and finish a painting in a short span of time. When I'm working on a larger or more involved piece sometimes I dawdle. I work in bits and pieces on the painting and work on other things when I'm not painting. Those other things are often necessary or good, but sometimes I'm simply wasting time or avoiding finishing. Sometimes I'm simply uncertain whether or not a painting is finished. Forcing myself to start and finish quickly (I hoped) would help me to be more disciplined and decisive. And I think it has.

Sometimes I was at a complete loss as to what to paint. It happens. On a normal day I probably wouldn't have painted anything in that situation, but for this challenge I didn't want to miss a day. I had to pick a subject.

Sometimes I chose the "wrong" subject and the painting wouldn't "flow" and I wouldn't like the end product. And that was ok. There was always tomorrow.

Blogging about my paintings each day was good in that it held me accountable, but it did take time. Sharing my paintings also kept me from experimenting quite as freely as I would have if I hadn't had an audience. I have some ideas I'd like to play with, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull them off and I didn't want to fail publicly.

Even so, I think the positives of sharing my paintings daily outweighed the negatives.

did experiment. All of the daily paintings (except for the quilt blocks and the hummingbirds) were painted without a preliminary sketch, something I never do.

watercolor eggplants, watercolor vegetables, painted eggplants, painted vegetables, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The eggplant, pepper and spent sunflower paintings were all done in a looser way than I usually paint, more quickly with larger brushes. It was freeing and confidence building and I am happy with the finished paintings (other than the pepper where I lost the groove).

The tiny houseplants were also an experiment. Not wildly daring in subject matter, but a challenge in scale.

watercolor paintings, watercolor plants, watercolor flowerpots, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'd like to experiment more with painting quilt block designs. Although I didn't like the first painting, once it was finished it grew on me.

watercolor paintings, quilt blocks, star quilt blocks, Anne Butera, My Giant Stawberry

I had been drawn to paint birds, especially hummingbirds, but was wary to try. I'm glad I did.

hummingbirds, watercolor hummingbirds, hummingbird paintings, ruby throated hummingbird male and female, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

In some cases these little paintings were practice for other pieces I wanted to paint or maybe they just sparked the idea for the larger paintings. I painted tomatoes and then went on to paint a larger tomato painting. I painted single nasturtium flowers and then a complex painting of a nasturtium bouquet. The single flower stem of black and blue salvia and my two small hummingbird paintings led to the larger painting of salvia and a hummingbird. I do the same sort of practice in my sketchbooks, but in some ways this was more fun.

So what did I learn?
  • painting a lot leads to a lot more painting -- this is true for other art or creative activities, too
  • ideas come from working, not from thinking
  • working loosely does not mean losing control
  • becoming obsessed with a subject can be a good thing
  • some days & some paintings are better than others and that's ok... just keep going
  • working in series can be inspiring and fun
  • practice, practice, practice
  • sometimes my least favorite painting might be more "popular" than my favorite

I'd highly recommend challenging yourself like this. It doesn't have to be painting and it doesn't have to be public. Maybe it's writing in your journal every day for the coming month, or working on a sewing or crochet project. Maybe you want to start a daily sketchbook. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to try a new recipe once a week.

Whatever it is will be beneficial.

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
                           --Maya Angelou

So what do you think? Are you up for a challenge? I'd love to hear about it!

(And thank you Jaime for suggesting I dive into the challenge in the first place. I really appreciate it!)


  1. This was such a major project Anne and well done for seeing it through. Your hummingbirds are one of my favourites. They are so delicate looking. As I am already doing the #300in30 days blog commenting challenge I think it will be difficult to fit anything else in as it is so time consuming. Maybe in Nov I will be doing some kind of watercolour painting everyday but I can't commit to it just now. I like Maya Angelou's quote - very appropriate. :-)

    1. Thank you, Simone!

      I hope you enjoy your challenge for this month and whatever you decide to try for November!

  2. Wow, I really enjoyed your inspiring month. I looked forward each day to what you would do. I am planning to try the challenge at some point. Great to have found you, Anne.

    1. Thank you so much, Pam! So nice to "meet" you! I hope you do try the challenge, or something else like it. So good for us to push ourselves!

  3. "ideas come from working, not from thinking".
    thank you for that gem.

    1. :) It's true. Though thinking can be good, too.

  4. Anne, you work last month was remarkable. I kept stopping by but didn't leave comments. Now I will tell you that I really admire your talent and the lessons you learned and shared with us. Bravo!!

    1. Thanks so much, Judy! Your encouragement means a lot to me!

  5. Beautiful and as always, thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Thank you, Carla. I am glad to bring a little inspiration to your day. It's a joy to have you cheering me on. :)


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