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So much of painting, art, creativity is mental! The easiest way to feel more free, expressive, and painterly is to reduce the pressure from yourself when you’re painting or making art. My secret to better painting is to work on multiple pieces of art at one time. Sometimes I am painting 3 or 4 canvases at a time in my art studio! Painting Multiples is such a great method of painting and on today’s podcast I’m telling you all the advantages. I hope you try this in your art practice and enjoy the painting process.

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren, Kristine, your host. Today, I have an exciting podcast planned for all of you, in which I am going to try to convince you, if you don’t already, you should be working on multiple paintings at a time. We’re gonna talk about the benefits, we’re gonna talk about how it has revolutionized my painting process and opened me up to more creativity and taking more risks. We’re gonna get all to that. In just a minute after the Review of the Week. Let’s take a look at this one from Inverni Art. And Invernie Art said: “Five stars – I love it. Just found your podcast today. And I love it. So much good and helpful content and delivered in a simple, non overly artist way.”

Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I try and make things simple for you and make it practical at the same time. I’m doing my best. So if you are out there enjoying the podcast, would you please take a minute, hit pause, go leave me a five star review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts, it would help me a ton. And it would help us to reach new self taught artists and help them out as well. Thank you very much. And if you leave me a review with a comment, I will share it and you might be featured on the next episode!

Alright, on to today’s topic, why you should always work on multiple paintings at a time! Or multiple crafts at a time, multiple art projects at a time. Whatever it is you do, however you are creative, you should do multiple of them at a time!

You know, for me, sometimes in my studio, I’ll have lots of paintings around. Some will be in the early stages, some will just need finishing touches and almost be done. Some paintings are easier to pick up and keep moving on than others. But that’s actually not the multiple pieces at a time that I mean. I think all of us have abandoned paintings around our studio or things that we want to come back to at some point. But I mean, actively painting multiple paintings at a time, typically of the same subject matter or a very closely related subject matter.

So I mean, like multiple shots at getting one painting right, by doing it multiple times. So for example, right now, I am working on a painting of a sunflower field. But I actually have two identical paintings happening at the same time on my easel right next to each other. And sometimes I’ll actually work on three or four at a time. Trying the same thing multiple times gives me multiple shots on goal to use that sports metaphor. Why limit myself to just one when I could be doing multiple?

And the easiest way to do this is with paper pieces. Obviously, that’s a pretty inexpensive substrate. So it’s easy to do multiple. I love to do acrylic paintings on watercolor paper, or sometimes I’ll do watercolors as well. And that’s also great to do multiple at a time because I think watercolor is incredibly difficult. The smallest mistake can throw things off sometimes. So having that multiple shots on goal is really important.

You know, this method of painting the same thing multiple times all at one time, it really helps me in a number of ways. And it always ends up differently, so sometimes I do end up with two identical pieces or very near identical pieces, and then I decide which one I like best. And that ends up being my final painting and I’ll paint over the other one. But sometimes, I’d say most of the time, I have one piece that ends up taking a creative detour and becomes a little different, or the paintings end up just generally different enough where they’re still two distinct paintings. And towards the end, I can do little details and additions to really take one in a different direction if I want to. But, I mean sometimes I’ll have one painting work out and be really great and then I’ll end up with two that are completely discarded and I just paint over them and forget about it. But I ended up with the one that I wanted at the end. And do remember, not every single art piece of yours has to cross the finish line. That is an incredibly unrealistic goal. I do not finish every painting that I start. And every painting that I finish is not necessarily my favorite. Some of those, they just never see the light of day. And that’s okay. Because that’s part of learning. It’s part of the process, I’ve learned to embrace it. And I would encourage you to as well. Putting that pressure on yourself that every painting that you finish has to be a masterpiece is too much.

So no matter what, painting multiple at a time helps me to be a better painter and a better artist. But there are a few very key advantages to working this way. So allow me to state my case, with five reasons that painting multiples, helps me be a better artist.

Number one, painting in multiples takes off the pressure. I have already alluded to this, but I feel a lot of pressure sometimes when I’m painting. And so much of painting or art and creativity in general, is mental. The easiest way to feel more free and loose and painterly is to take the pressure down, to lower that pressure from yourself or take it off of yourself all together. We are so hard on ourselves. It’s just paint on a substrate. That’s it. And guess what, you can paint over it. And you can try again. Nothing is stopping you. By working on multiples, it gives you a mental freedom to try new things. And it helps you not to worry that you’re somehow going to mess it up.

So one example I use here, talking about this pressure actually comes from another form of art that I love to do. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but I love to do pottery and ceramics on the pottery wheel. But every time I do that, I feel so much pressure, the closer the piece gets to completion. Because the thing about a pottery wheel is you can only work on one thing at a time. There’s one lump of clay, there’s one pottery wheel. And that’s all you can do at one time. So all of my focus, all of my mental energy is being channeled into that one piece of pottery. This is terrible for me, because I feel so much pressure because by the time we get near the end, where I’m doing the shaping, you know, I’ve already wedged it and pushed out all the air bubbles and gotten it centered and gotten it perfectly into shape and started the basics of the shape and then gotten the advanced parts done. And then by the end, I just don’t want to mess it all up! Because all those steps build on each other, I just start to get this feeling like one wrong move could literally make it all come crumbling down, literally. And just that thought entering my brain is so damaging to my creativity and to how I feel as I’m making the ceramic piece. Literally my hands clasp up, I get tight. And I start thinking about “What if I mess this up? I’ve been working on this for an hour. What if I mess it up?” And sometimes just that pressure, just that thought in my brain can cause me to tense up a little bit too much, grab the clay too tightly, and send it off center making it wobbly, which is the most disappointing thing in ceramics. For anybody who knows ceramics out there, that essentially means I ruin the piece. It’s heartbreaking. And if I could just stay in that place of looseness and feeling the clay and having the right energy and just feeling the form and let it be what it wants to be, I would be way more successful. But it is a mental game. I have to say in my brain before I start that ceramics piece like “it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s just clay. It’s just clay. It’s fun. It’s fun.” I have to remind myself of that.

Now in painting, we’re lucky because no single paint stroke can ever ruin the piece, especially in acrylic painting or oils. There are no mistakes. There’s just happy little accidents in the words of Bob Ross. You can always paint over it and change it and do it over. No paint stroke is the end. And if you’re fast enough, you can take a paper towel and water and wipe it up with acrylics, okay? You’re never stuck with acrylic painting, you just add another layer and keep going.

So as a result, that means we really should not sweat each paint strokes so much, and not put all this extra pressure on ourselves, it’s too much! By having multiple pieces going at a time, multiple on the easel, or multiple on your art table, that gives your brain some room to breathe, and know that at least one of them should turn out okay. One of them is going to turn out great. It may take multiple to get there. But that’s the point.

The second reason working on multiples is great is because it encourages looseness, it encourages bigger strokes, freer paint strokes, more energy, and more confident paint strokes. Looseness is a goal of many painters I know. And it’s one of my personal goals. Trying to be more expressive and get my point across without being too tight and orderly in my paintings would be lovely. I’m always thinking about it when I’m painting: loosen up, don’t get too tight, don’t get too realistic. Let it be fun. That’s in my mental talk track. But to get there, I know that working in multiples is key. It keeps me moving, literally, between pieces and on my toes. I’m going from one canvas to the next or from one piece of paper to the next to the next to the next. And I get to batch different processes or strokes or colors, and be more efficient with my paint, not wasting any paint on my brush. It just keeps me moving. I find that I paint quicker and looser when I have multiple paintings in front of me, because again, it takes the pressure off, you’re just dancing between canvases.

Number three: Another reason I love working on multiple pieces at a time is that it stops me from overworking a painting. When I have multiple pieces in front of me that I’m actively working on of the same subject matter, I do not sweat the tiny details like I do if I have just one piece that I am dedicating all of my focus to. When I have multiple pieces, I don’t even see that imperfection, because by the time I realize it’s there, I’ve already moved on to working on the next painting. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. For me, it tends to be just these little tiny details, you know, like the reflection of the water on the vase. If I’m painting a floral piece, I just I’ll find myself fixating on that one reflection that one part of the vase over and over and over again, painting over it, trying it again, trying it again, trying it again, until I get it perfect. But the problem is, once I try it so many times, I inadvertently end up usually overworking the vase. And in the process, I sometimes throw it off from the rest of the piece and the composition gets out of balance or, you know, the painting, the paint literally like builds up on that spot too much. And then I get frustrated even more. And it just leads to it feeling overworked. Oops. But when I have two or three, I really don’t sweat the small stuff in the way that I used to. Each piece has natural variations. Your brain has a bigger picture to look at, which is all of these paintings next to each other, not just getting lost in the tiny details of one piece.

I think that these natural variations that come up when you do multiples are sometimes the best part. Those themselves will be inspiring and push the piece in an unexpected direction. So working in multiples keeps my energy high as I move from piece to piece. And that helps me to stop overworking, stop sweating the small stuff and you know not being that perfectionist getting sucked into that perfectionism mind state. Because naturally, that’s where I tend to fall into for better or worse. So I’m constantly trying to get myself out of perfectionism and into the moment when I paint. Multiples is key.

The fourth reason that I love working in multiples…. This one is huge. I know earlier in the podcast I’ve told you about the benefits of working in collections, which is, you know, having a set of paintings that you work on that are cohesive around a similar theme or color palette. There’s just some common thread between all of the pieces in a collection. Well, let me tell you that painting multiple pieces at a time helps to ensure cohesion among all your pieces, you’re using the same colors from your palette, you’re mixing the color, you’re using it on multiple pieces, that helps them to have cohesion, you’re painting in the same fashion, you’re building consistency in your collection, naturally and organically. This is really easy to do when you’re painting multiple at the same time. And it’s hard to do when you paint one all the way to completion. You leave your studio for a day or a week, then you come back in a week. And you wonder to yourself, “how did I get that perfect pink? What color was it?” And you may or may not be able to mix it exactly perfectly again, again, missing out on that opportunity to have this beautiful cohesion in your collection.

When you work on them all at the same time, also your marks will be similar and your brushstrokes will be similar because you’re doing it with the same time with the same energy with the same brush. Honestly, it is a great way to build cohesion in your collection. And there’s just no easier way to do that than literally painting them at the same time.

Number five: the fifth reason that I love working in multiples and encourage you to work in multiples is because it frees you up to take risks with your paintings that you otherwise would not take. Sometimes these risks become the best parts about your painting. When you have multiple paintings at a time, it’s so much easier to take the leap and say, Oh, what if I did this? What if I tried lime green on this one? What would happen? What would happen if instead of this one being daytime, I made it a nighttime scene of the same subject matter? You can take that risk because it’s just one of many irons you have in the fire at that time.

When you have the multiple canvases and multiple pieces of paper where you can experiment and try new things, it helps you to avoid that urge to tighten up toward the end of the process (like me on the pottery wheel). Sometimes it lets you just explore things in a way that you just otherwise wouldn’t. Sometimes those little experiments ended up becoming favorites of mine or complimentary paintings that fit really well in the same collection. You get this one, it just frees you up to take risks and lets you be free as you paint. Who doesn’t want that?

Alright, that was five reasons you should work in multiples and work on multiple pieces of the same subject matter or very similar subject matter at the same time. Hopefully you try this method out for yourself and see if it works for you. It brings freshness, energy and momentum into my painting process and into my studio. And I hope it does the exact same thing for you.

If you have any questions along the way, or you have any topics you’d love to hear me dive into in a future episode of the Self Taught Artist Podcast, I am all ears. The best place to reach me these days is through email. LaurenKristine I’ll leave that in the show notes. And, as always, don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe. I make this podcast for you out of joy and love and it would be wonderful if we could spread it to more people and help them learn about the Self Taught Artist Podcast as well. The easiest way to do that is to rate, review, and subscribe. Thank you so much for being here with me today. I will catch you next time on the next podcast of our exciting season two and until then, Happy Creating my friends!

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