TIMED PAINTING: 37 MINUTES
This was nominally a one-hour painting exercise. We North Americans have trained our brains to stay focused for about an hour (although some would argue less.) Schools have one-hour classes, TV programs are an hour long (we won't talk about commercials), and so on. Keeping the time for this painting short will encourage sustained focus, as well as stopping us from fussing with the paintings (there won't be time).
Students selected their own subjects (though I encouraged simple ones). I chose to knife paint the tomato, since I had missed that exercise, lacking a tomato that day.
While we talked about the painting process, their brushwork choices, and the like, everyone laid out their paint and drew in the composition. I emphasized that deliberate brush strokes rather than frantic speed would be the key here. I promised not to interrupt them with suggestions, but let them keep their focus. Then I set the timer.
The results were fascinating. For me, the by-now familiar tomato allowed me to go to color with some confidence and less searching. Also, the choice of a knife was a speeding-up choice, since I could lay whole swaths of color at once. I was able to complete the tomato with about ten minutes to spare, and while there were things to mess with, I could easily have overworked the painting, so I stopped.
Student results were also interesting. About half the class forgot to key in their values, and while we had been focusing on brushwork for the entire quarter, forgetting value was a fatal oversight (in the same sense that Windows experiences fatal errors.) Those who had held to a strong value structure had successful paintings, even when significant details were missing.
Going back to their paintings, the students corrected the values and brought them to successful completion before the end of class... still an expeditious painting.
While painting quickly might not be a goal, as an exercise it encourages focus and attention to essentials.