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The 3 Cycles of Painting: Freedom, Faith and Healing

Someone once asked me if I go to my studio every day, or do I wait until I feel creative. This got me thinking about my art-making process. I discovered that I paint using three different cycles: beginning, continuing and completion.

Perhaps this may seem too simple. But by identifying these separate cycles I realized that each one requires a different type of energy, technique and approach. This, in turn, increased my productivity and gave an ease and flow to my studio time. In a nutshell, beginning is about freedom, continuing requires faith and completion is about healing.

I go to my studio almost every day, regardless of how I feel. But when I get to my studio, I start by taking a moment to choose the activity that best pairs with how I feel. Creativity takes on many guises.

Freedom in Beginning

Sometimes I want to try out new things, have high levels of active energy, want to engage in something playful, or I just want to experiment. I always have lots of extra canvases and surfaces around (even a stack of cardboard will do) and I may launch several to a dozen new paintings in one day. This is my beginning cycle using freedom and play.

Faith in Continuing

Other times I get to my studio feeling overwhelmed with too many paintings in process, or I have a less active, more meditative energy. In this case, I turn all my canvases except one to face the wall so I am not distracted and can focus on one painting at a time.

This “continuing” cycle is often the toughest for me. The work can lose its initial surprise and excitement, or hasn’t yet become something cohesive, so I need to trust and have faith that by working on the painting one step at a time, one area at a time, it will start to mature.

Healing in Completion

Over the course of two months, I will usually spend at least half my studio time starting new work, in the beginning cycle. About a third of my studio time is in the continuing cycle. The remaining amount of time, perhaps only a small percentage focuses on completing work.

Finishing a painting takes a very particular type of energy. On these very valuable and rare days, I can clearly see what each painting needs to make it the best it can be. I will give that last finishing touch to several in one day—finishing them all! Then I go out and celebrate. It’s more of a struggle for me to work on one painting, by itself, through all its cycles. Having many choices of paintings to work on simultaneously takes the “attachment” factor out of working on just one. In this way, I can put my energy to its best use.

When I am painting a commission with a deadline for completion, I will paint it all the way through, but I still take occasional breaks to play on some other paintings to keep the juices flowing. I find it easiest to work in one cycle for the whole day, and not switch during that day. For instance, if I spend several hours flinging paint in a freedom engaged session of “starts” I will not be as adept on that same day to try to finish a different painting.

How to ‘Create Perfect Paintings’

You can watch the entire presentation at my YouTube Channel, which includes the best ways to bring attention to your painting, extend its viewing time and heighten the viewing experience.

From creating costumes and sets for theater and film to coordinating public arts programs for the state of New York, Nancy Reyner has had an extensive career in the arts. She has been painting for more than 30 years, teaching and exhibiting both nationally and internationally.

Learn some of her painting techniques through Reyner’s Perfect Paintings Collection, an incredible bundle featuring her book, Create Perfect Paintings, as well as three of her video workshops, Nancy Reyner’s Perfect Painting Solutions, Nancy Reyner’s Perfect Color Mixing and Nancy Reyner’s Creative Color. Happy painting, artists!

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