[This blog is taken from an entry in my art journal from a few years ago – thought you would enjoy it. Pictures are from the Marathon session. Don't try this at home.]
The painting process really appeals to me. Sometimes, however, I can get lost in time and end up over-working a painting. I tried to use techniques to help prevent this problem, but nothing seemed to help until one day while watching a Marathon running event I got an idea. What about a timed event for painting, something more than “a painting a day”, why not one painting per hour? Maybe a Marathon of 26 paintings in 24 hours.
Now we’re talking some serious painting.
Yes, its quirky, but artists tend to experiment with all sorts of quirky exercises. The best day came, a day free of the trials of daily life, a whole twenty- four hours worth. My stash of canvas surfaces all lined up, studio cleaned, well, almost. Ready to paint. Then I leaned down, zing, a muscle in my back let lose. Oops, should have stretched before the big race. Eight o’clock starting time became 10 o’clock. Have to stay focused, get this race going.
Lining up reference photos that were taken from last summer’s trip gave a sense of being in the forests and dunes of Michigan. By matching the photo to the canvases I should have the first painting completed soon, right?
The first pack of three canvases had ripples in the weave. A little gesso should help to solve this glitch. Good enough. I just blew most of an hour.
Eleven a.m. the first of many canvas boards hit the easel. I like to paint much larger so this should be easy. My fast drying acrylics were working great but forty five minutes into the first of twenty-six paintings was going slower than expected. Could it be that I was dabbing and dallying? The whole reason for this marathon was to speed up the painting process with simplicity and discipline. I’ll have to keep better track of time.
The first painting was finally completed in less than one hour and not too bad, if I say so myself.
To celebrate, I did some stretching exercises for the stiff back, and took a long look at the couch. Maybe I should test it for upcoming naps?
Wow! Fifteen minutes into my second painting and I’m on the couch sleeping. After doing some self-reaming, I got back at the goal.
The process continued through the day. I would have to work through interruptions like the maintenance person coming to fix a sagging light fixture. Paint, stretch sore muscles, and rest through the afternoon and into evening if the marathon was to be completed.
The safe place for completed work was beginning to fill up. To my surprise some paintings were pretty good. The weaker were ones off by a few brush strokes. The overworking problem seemed to be under control at least for now.
Dinner break came and yes I succumbed to the human cravings. Food, I need food. After wolfing down too much dinner, the inner voice was yelling, “get back to work.”
In a small college town where I once lived, the townies came out to watch a Marathon spectacle - Young people running twenty-six miles. How strange that was for us, seeing the college kids plod their way up the steep hill to the main street, their faces etched in pain, bodily fluids leaking. This vivid image crept into my thoughts as I too plodded along. The many cups of tea had to be dealt with or I, too, would be that ominous soul on the up hill of this painting marathon.
I painted on into the evening. The sun set, night came over the sleepy town as my studio light shone onto the empty streets. Paintings kept getting finished and still they looked pretty darn good. What was going on here? Was I in some kind of time warp?
Breaks between paintings were getting longer. Late night talk shows could be heard coming from the next room. The specter the marathon runners began to appear in my mind as images of exhausted, plodding, tragic apparitions. My back was stiff and sore but thoughts of crossing the finish line with twenty-six finished paintings dogging me on. This was a rare moment in an Artist’s life. I had to keep going. But for how long?
Late Late shows wafted into the studio. The sore back turned into back pain, the nasty kind. We’re programmed not quit, right? Those gol darn blank canvases lined up waiting for the artist’s hand. I could not drop out; too many people knew I was out to do a painting marathon.
Then inspiration hit me. I know how the Half-Marathon was invented. Yes, high fives all around, I just finished 13 paintings, a glorious half painting marathon, none of them overworked, all of them colorful and bearing the gift of simplicity.