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Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong.

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Martin Kinnear on why he thinks you should think hard before taking up the 'Painting A Day' habit.

Everybody's doing it. The 'Painting A Day', thing I mean.

Every time I go online my eyes are assaulted with still life of the day, portrait of the day, dog portrait of the day. I'm beginning to think there's hardly a treasured pet, grandchild or lemon in the the UK that hasn't been committed to canvas.

I know it\s lockdown, and yes I know that I'm on record as being very keen that everybody paints as much and as often as possible, however I'm just moved to write a quick blog to offer one word of advice.


Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong.

The thing about practice is that repetition is just as effective as making bad habits second nature as good ones.

If you work wet into wet for instance and don't have sound subtractive mixing habits then you'll be practicing making grey mud. On the other hand if you do know how to mix subtractively, but need to bed that knowledge down, then practice is the very best thing to do.

Committing to doing a Painting a day is a truly wonderful thing, particularly for mental health. It can be a brilliant thing to do if you are practicing good skills until they are so embedded that you can't get the next painting wrong. However, it can also be an absolute disaster if you bed down bad practice by doing it again and again until it can't easily be unlearned.

Stop to think about your process - painting is more enjoyable if it falls off the brush rather than has to be dragged into being.

The process I recommend for most paintings most of the time is ebauche. You'll see it done each and every week - and on lots of different things, on StudioTalk. Seeing something done and explained, and then doing it - now that's good practice. You can take part in StudioTalk for under the price of a decent coffee. Find out more here

Stop to think about the composition relative to your design (whatever else it is, all painting is always and also visual design).

Some artists focused on design and that's the very reason I run masterclasses on them such as 'Towards Abstraction' on the incredible deign based paintings of Ivon Hitchens here

Stop to choose an effective colour plan - make it a reductive one, they work better, and you'll use less paint more effectively.

You'll see me using a reductive colour plan each and every week on StudioTalk here , and if you want to know how I get to those colour plans take a deep dive into applied colour on my Monet masterclass here

Stop to check those Values - did you know that Value is the dominant force in perception, so it really can make or break any work.

All paintings have Value, but the easiest way to get to grips with it is by making a date with pre Impressionist painting styles such as the retro style of Manet. Manet was the Impressionist who did the most to bring those strong old master Values into the modern world, you can check out his dazzling blend of proven methods and modern colour in my Classical Florals Masterclass here

Stop to stay inspired - if you find that you're constantly painting the same things in the same way then take a look at the works of other painters, you'll always see a new take on whatever you have in mind. I demonstrate something different each and every week on StudioTalk such as this week's portrait for painters who don't do portraits!

My Painting A Day Recipe

  • Set up for an ebauche to direct painting

  • Create a strong composition using the principles of Visual Design

  • Choose a reductive Colour Plan

  • Place those colours well so they enhance and support the design

  • Use value range and key, or a Post - Impressionist Value technique.

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Thank you Martin for this blog. It directly resonates with me as I am taking part in a challenge on social media where I have to draw direct from life every single day. And yes , the odd lemon and a posy of flowers have made it in my board.. I applied all the principles and reinforced the simply oils course and that placed me in a good stead. So Thanks Bryony for that. Now when I upped my scale painting my interior I struggled quite a bit and my bad habit was using white too soon as I was hasty trying to see a finished painting soon which I quickly took note of. In essence I totally get th…


Jill Craig
Jill Craig
Jan 23, 2021

When I look back over the last year of painting with NPS and Martin, I can see how all the words of wisdom have started to improve my own painting. It takes time and concentration to get to grips with colour management, rheology, value, structure and range. I can now see where subtle changes can improve the overall effect of a painting and how to use the different translucent and opaque paints to create depth and texture. There isn’t a day when I don’t appreciate all the generous teaching of Martin and the support and encouragement of Bryony and everyone else at NPS. The whole NPS community has grown over time making every weeks experience so enjoyable. So glad …

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