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Test Yourself With Timed Painting Challenges

One of the best ways to improve your instinctive painting skills is to test yourself with timed painting challenges. This involves setting a challenging but achievable time to complete a painting from start to finish in a single session.

I generally like to complete a few 20-minute paintings during the month. These will not be studio-quality masterpieces, but they serve an extremely important purpose in honing my instinctive judgment of value, color and perspective. They also help keep my brushwork fluent and relaxed. Here is a painting I did earlier based on a photo I took of Nundah, Queensland at sunset:

Dan Scott, Nundah Running Track, Sunset
Dan Scott, Nundah Running Track, Sunset

All up this took me about 20 minutes (excluding set-up time). To complete the painting in such time I utilized large paint brushes and palette knives and simplified everything as much as possible. When you have a limited amount of time to complete a painting, you are forced into a big picture mindset rather than focusing on the smaller, less important details. When I say big picture mindset, I mean thinking about the painting in terms of generalized values, colors, shapes and lines. These elements form the fundamental base for your painting.

When you are starting out with painting, you can tend to focus on the less important fine details and overlook the fundamental structures. Timed paintings are a fantastic way to train yourself out of this. Here are some tips for timed painting challenges:

  • Set yourself a challenging but achievable time to complete the painting in.
  • Choose a simple scene to paint at the start. Landscapes are perfect for this.
  • Paint with a limited palette. You do not need a wide range of colors to complicate things.
  • Prepare all your materials before you start. You want to be able to paint freely during the timed challenge.
  • Remember to think big picture. Try and break the scene down into the dominant values, colors, shapes and lines.
  • Use very large brushes. You need to cover the canvas as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every stroke must count. Only start using the small brushes at the very end if necessary.

These timed challenges should be incorporated into your overall painting training, with other time spent on larger studio works, drawing and other studies. The challenges are where you should try and apply the theory you have learned as instinctively as possible. At the start, you will probably struggle. But whatever you do try to keep going until the end of the painting. Many times the painting will look wrong halfway through but it all ends up coming together by the end of it. If you do not complete the painting in your set time, that is ok. Just keep going and maybe adjust the time for your next challenge or try and speed things up. This is not one of those pass or fail challenges. It is rather a self-improvement challenge targeted at applying the theory without overthinking it.

Have you done any timed painting challenges before? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Want to Learn More?

You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I’ll walk you through the time-tested fundamentals of painting. It’s perfect for absolute beginner to intermediate painters.

Thanks for Reading!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

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Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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2 comments on “Test Yourself With Timed Painting Challenges”

  1. I won a speed painting competition once. The theme was autumn, and we were given one hour to complete. I painted a scene on a large canvas, using oils, so I had to move quickly. Much of the time I was using a gesso brush to apply the paint. It was a demanding, but rewarding exercise. The audience voted for their favourite painting.

    • Fantastic work Norm! Have a photo? Speed painting really teaches you how to effectively use those large brushes.



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