In 2007, I issued a personal challenge to myself. Paint one ACEO sized painting every day but Sunday for a year. (An ACEO is also known as an art trading card and they MUST be 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches in size. No larger, no smaller.)
The purpose was to learn to paint better, more realistic landscapes. In essence, to catch landscape painting skills up to horse painting skills.
I confess, I also wanted a way to stretch those skills without long investments of time or materials and that I would have no qualms about trashing if they didn’t turn out. But those are lessons for another day.
I worked throughout the year and succeeded not only in meeting the goal, but exceeding it by about a dozen tiny paintings.
But I learned something important long before the year and the challenge ended.
I could accomplish a lot with paint and brush in twenty minutes or less.
Many was the day when all I had at the end of the day was twenty minutes and a need to paint the day’s ACEO. I wish I could say I succeeded in meeting the goal every day, but I didn’t.
But I did succeed on a lot of days and I learned I could do a decent, little painting in twenty minutes or less. All I had to do was get started.
As ACEOs accumulated, I began to wonder what kind of progress I could make on larger paintings by putting in “just” twenty minutes a day. The answer? More than I previously thought possible.
The neat thing was that once I started painting, it was very easy to work through, then past twenty minutes. Even when I didn’t think I had ‘enough time to paint’.
Why was this so important to my painting career?
I’ve always worked primarily in oils. Slow drying, lots of clean up afterward, sometimes a lot of set up before. Somewhere through the years, I got into my head the idea that I had to have at least an hour to paint in order to get anything done. Two hours were better. An evening of uninterrupted painting time was ideal.
The more I thought those thoughts, the less likely I became to paint unless I knew I’d have at least an hour of free time. Usually a day off. It grew easier and easier to put off painting altogether and wait for a more opportune time.
When I challenged myself to learn landscape painting by painting an ACEO a day, I had no idea the more important lesson of time management that came with the challenge.
You’ve no doubt already realized why I’m writing about a five-year-old studio challenge in today’s writing blog. At least I hope you have.
Writers are subject to the same false perceptions that befall artists. At least this writer and artist is. I realized in 2007 that I really didn’t need a lot of dedicated time before I could paint.
I’m realizing – again – that I don’t need a lot of free time to write, either. Enough time to sit down at the computer or write a few lines with pen and paper are really all that’s necessary. If I don’t take advantage of those tiny time treasures, I will not be able to make the best possible use of those ideal blocks of time when they arrive.
The trick is finding ways to get into the Process of Novel at a moment’s notice and in small periods of time. An ACEO landscape a day doesn’t have quite the same influence on writing that it does on painting, after all.
Question for You
What personal challenges spur you to better time management in the writing department?
If you’d like to read more about time management for writers, I recommend this blog from the ACFW blog. ACFW Rewind: Becoming a More Productive Writer was written by Joseph Bentz, a multi-published author, and republished on May 15, 2012.