A painting a day: begin (#1, The People’s Republic of Gourd)

I was telling Erik last night how difficult it is to get motivated and build good habits, even when in theory I really want to work on something. It all feels so futile. He pointed out that because I work on so many things, it’s hard for me to see improvement, and maybe that’s why my confidence hasn’t increased alongside my skills. I said that’s true, and realized it’s also true that it’s just hard for me to see my new work, period — especially while traveling, because everything is tucked into sketchbooks or saved on the computer. It’s harder to feel a sense of satisfaction when at the end of the day, everything looks just the same as it did when I started. Erik suggested that as I’m a sharing kind of person, I could do a simple painting-a-day project to share on the blog. I agreed, and decided moreover to do the paintings on a big sheet of paper, so I’ll have something sizable to show at the end.

We had this conversation at dinner* and then I spent the rest of the evening painting one of the gourds I bought in Chatham. I felt replete with well-being. It is a strange phenomenon that difficult tasks are so much more fun to do than easy ones (as long as the difficulty level is still within capability) — but of course, they’re so much harder to make ourselves start in the first place.

Here’s the finished gourd painting, looking a little pinker than it does in real life — the actual background color is so red that I’ve dubbed the picture The People’s Republic of Gourd. (My camera is not at its best with reds and I’m not a good enough photo editor to know how to repair.) It took an hour and fifty minutes.


For size reference, here’s the entire paper, in a photo I took today while working on painting #2.


I’ve made a special category just for these daily paintings, and have added it to the short list of categories on the right. If you use a feed reader (like Feedly), it turns out you can subscribe to category feeds by themselves, so if you’re not a regular reader but would like to keep updated with my daily paintings, just add this feed to your reader.

I always paint to music. While making this picture I listened to quirky music without words (or in languages I don’t speak). Selections from the playlist:

  • Bjarke Mogensen’s lovely album, Winter Sketches. Mogensen is a young (four years younger than I am!) Danish accordionist we heard in Reykjavík last year. If you think accordion has to sound kitschy and cumbersome, give Mogensen a listen (you might try track 9, “Kalina Krasnaya”).
  • Ensemble Polaris’s wide-ranging album, Uncharted Waters. This is another group we discovered on our travels. Try track 18, “Ganglat fran Klockarberg.” I love its weird, old-timey feel — it’s like ancient music from a country in a fantasy novel, but played by a local bluegrass band (or something like that).
  • Hilary Hahn and Hauschka, “Krakow.” A somber, pensive mood inspired by the landscape of Iceland.


*Full disclosure: I’ve been so desperate about my lack of productivity that this dinner conversation began with me asking Erik, “Do you think it’s ethical to bribe myself to work? Like… with books or scarves or other treats?”