Blog / 2010 / The Opposite of a “Painting a Day”

February 1, 2010

A few years ago, the “painting a day” movement exploded onto the internet, creating a new discipline and, in the process, shifting paradigms. This artist is credited with kicking it off when he started selling small daily paintings off of a blog which he called A Painting a Day. The practice spread because:

  • Philosphically speaking, it means taking time to appreciate the little things, marking them as special enough to not only be observed but also painted.
  • Practically speaking, the discipline forces artists to paint more often and gives them an instant community/audience to hold them accountable to the promise of painting every day.
  • Commercially speaking, by eschewing the gallery system, artists can keep art affordable for patrons and build not just a fan-base but a collector-base, with people who are that much more committed to the work because they have invested in it.

And I like all of this, except for the part where a painting should take just one day to make. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that anyone involved in the “painting a day” movement thinks that all paintings should take only one day to make, but I do think that their approach feeds into the fast-food quick-fix obsolete-before-it-hits-the-shelves instant-gratification society we’ve built.

In my world, art takes time.

step by step acrylic portrait painting

I started this painting in October of 2008 and didn’t finish it until December 2009.

WIP, portrait painting

This is not unusual for me. Though my average painting time clocks in at six months, I often spend a year or more creating a piece.

work in progress, acrylic portrait painting

And I happen to think that there’s something to be said for a painting that has time layered into its brushstrokes.

step by step acrylic portrait painting

My art is influenced by the other artworks that I’m working on at the same time, and they are a product of everything that is going on in my life.

portrait painting work in progress

When I started this painting of Deb for Subjective, I knew that it would be about the subject herself, but also that it would have to be about motherhood.

painting a portrait in acrylic

All the paintings in the series reflect the relationships that Becca and I have with our family members.

acrylic portrait layers

And, with my half of the series, I wanted to make broader statements about motherhood, fatherhood, siblinghood, and intimate partnerships with each of my paintings.

step by step acrylic portrait painting

When I began Deb’s portrait, I didn’t know that I had a disease that is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.

WIP acrylic portrait painting

After I got an ER diagnonsis of my condition in late summer 2009, this painting changed for me.

acrylic portrait painting process

The two other works from Subjective that focus on motherhood—the portraits of my mother and of Becca’s daughter—were long since completed.

painting a portrait of a woman in acrylic

So Deb’s portrait ended up absorbing some of my newer thoughts and feelings about motherhood.

woman portrait painting

And I like that. I like that my work has time to evlove and to be influenced by everything else in my life.

step by step acrylic portrait painting

I like that there is more than paint in the layers that I put down on canvas. It makes the portrait feel more real to me.

crosshatch painting of a new grandmother by independent artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on canvas
36 x 24 inches

For Deb’s portrait, I specifically chose a source image that resembled the one I used for her granddaughter’s portrait. The resemblance between them is striking and I wanted to emphasize it.

figurative painting by Gwenn Seemel
detail of Mother

I also wanted to honor the adult mother-daughter relationship which often has a lot to do with talking over hot beverages—or at least it does in our families!

PCC North View Gallery with Becca Bernstein’s art and Gwenn Seemel’s
photo by David

This is Deb with her portraits at the opening of Subjective in Portland. To see Subjective before it leaves Stumptown and goes on tour, visit the North View Gallery by this Friday! The gallery is open from 8 AM to 4 PM.


I have lots of not-so-popular opinions like this one about the “painting a day” movement. Check out what I have to say about fan art, celebrity portraiture, hyperrealism, and copyright.

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