Sunday, March 13, 2016

Don’t Put all Your Eggs (Or Paint) in One Basket | Painting Tips

A guest blog post featuring painting tips from Jo Toye, author of Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting: Fun, Creative and Innovative Techniques. Get your copy at North Light Shop today and learn how to make abstract art!

Start Three Paintings at Once, or,
Don’t Put all Your Eggs (Paint) in One Basket

by Jo Toye

A painting that I’ve started and is waiting for me out in the studio is like a magnet; a blank canvas or piece of paper waiting to be started causes me to remember that I have to do the laundry or feed the cat. For whatever reason, it’s easier to come back to a painting in progress than to start a brand new one. That’s one of the reasons I’m going to suggest that you don’t just start one painting (once the cat is fed and the laundry is done), but three! I can hear you now: “Jo, you just said you have trouble starting one so why suggest three?” Because starting three paintings at once has many advantages that will help you become a better artist.

Painting tips from Jo Toye |

All Jazzed Up (acrylic and ink on paper, 10×22) by Jo Toye, collection of Barb and Jeremy Jones

Painting Tips for Artists

On a practical note, starting three paintings at once gives you something to do while you’re waiting for paint to dry. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very patient person when it comes to this. If you start three paintings, and all three are at various stages, you can leave one to dry and move on to the next, and then the next. By the time you come back to the first, voila, it’s dry and you can pick up where you left off.

Psychologically, having several paintings waiting for you helps to draw you back out to the studio. There’s a certain energy and momentum that builds while working on a painting that dissipates with its completion. A simple adaptation of Newton’s first law of motion goes something like this, “an artist at rest tends to remain at rest, and an artist in motion tends to remain in motion.” Having another painting waiting for you after completing one tends to lesson the inertia you may experience that prevents you from traveling that long distance (often a hall or simply a doorway) back to the studio.

Finally, having several paintings at different stages can accelerate your learning. Far too often, when I really don’t know what to do next in a painting, I just do something, or worse, anything! After all, my painting time is precious and fleeting and it’s often difficult to just wait around until inspiration strikes. Having other paintings available allows you to step away from the current painting, move on to another and then come back with new perspective. And, because you learn to paint by painting, when you come back to your earlier painting, you come back a better painter. In the excellent book, Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland make the astute observation that what you need to know for your next painting is contained in your last piece. Moving back and forth between paintings in differing stages of completion allows you to apply newly acquired knowledge immediately while the lessons are still fresh. Starting three paintings at once will take commitment, but it’s a commitment that will serve to enhance both your motivation and development as an artist.

Painting tips from Jo Toye |

Here are three Tar Gel paintings at various stages (above). While you want the three paintings to be different, you’ll learn the most if they’re all similar in subject matter or technique. You’ll find that doing this when you’re trying out something new is very beneficial. In this case, you may want to make the three paintings smaller in size so you are freer to play and experiment.

Visit North Light Shop to order your copy of
Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting by Jo Toye today!

Bio: Jo Toye is an experimental artist who finds great delight in bringing the intuitive nature of play together with the more formal elements of design. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona where she joyously shares her evolving process through her popular art workshops and classes. You can find out more about Jo, and see her work at

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