How Do You Do That?

Three Dancers White Peonies
Three Dancers White Peonies, 16X16, oil, information


I received a letter from a friend and fellow painter recently, and she asked how I organized my painting process when I was first exploring color. She wondered, did I keep notes on my paintings, did I write things down, or just rely on intuition? And, what do I do when I feel blocked? My art life at this point is like a giant cyclone, moving and spinning and changing so quickly, the challenge is to manage the big pieces flying about and knowing when to duck and take cover.

But when I first began painting, there was a great deal of analyzing happening. Studying (and studying is STILL happening, and always will be!) note taking, trial and error, different approaches, different tools, all of these were daily pieces of the art life. I had a solid layer of yellow post-it notes with color recipes on two of my closet doors in the studio. When the notes reached Layer Three, from floor to ceiling, it occurred to me, I had not consulted a single one in years. So I swept them all away. The notes said things like this: BEST recipe for green geranium leaves. And on top of that, NO USE THIS ONE – and the new twist on the old recipe. And then I began DATING the top layer of post-its, to delineate between the Cro Magnon era and the Neolithic development phase (right around the time I stopped using palette knife and went back to brush).

Today, rather than taking notes, I take photos of paintings in progress. If something I am working on really gets the tingle going, I take step by step photos to leave a trail of visual breadcrumbs back to the bottom layers. Much easier than stopping, picking up a pen, and pasting a note to a door. But there is one thing that has solidified in all of this process, and it’s much more important than taking notes – it’s the habit of daily painting. Once you have become familiar with the foundations, paint frequently, at least three times a week. Daily-ish painting will cause a change in you that is completely out of your control – you will begin to understand your shortcomings. The more you paint, the more shortcomings you will see.

The real measure at this point is: Who will quit when things get tough, and who will keep painting after the successful painting they envisioned fails to appear. There are definitely times of absolute frustration. When I was a runner, it was called, hitting a wall. If you could keep going through the most painful bit, you would encounter a breakthrough point, and suddenly all the effort seemed to vanish.

The thing they don’t tell you is, the more you move forward, the more walls you hit. I have so much further to go, and there are times I feel I have forgotten every single thing I thought I knew about painting. If you are feeling a peak period of frustration, this is a sign you are about to hit a breakthrough, or there is something you absolutely need to direct your focus and attention upon learning. The exciting thing is, you’re paying more attention when you’re struggling, than when you’re succeeding. You’re learning. And if painting were super easy, we could teach an elephant to do this, am I right?


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June 2020 ~ Your summer escape awaits!

You are invited to join Nancy for a summer getaway to the magnificent French Alps. There is no more beautiful escape from the summer heat than spending 10 days in the heart of the lovely  medieval village of Annecy, known as “The Venice of France” with its canals, flower gardens, cafes and shops.

Learn more about the French Alps painting getaway!

After flying into Geneva, Switzerland, we’ll make our home in The Splendid Hotel near the shores of historic Lake Annecy. Your journey begins with a tour of Col de la Forclaz with lunch on the terrace of a dairy farm in the mountains. We’ll sample slices of charcuterie, cheeses, potato beignets, and fresh blueberry tarts with cream. We’ll tour the Chateau de Menthon St Bernard, a castle filled with 13th century furnishings, tapestries and a library of ancient manuscripts painted with illuminations from the monks of the Middle Ages. And this is all just Day 1!

During your journey workshop, you’ll have plenty of painting time with Nancy in the indoor studio at your hotel in Annecy. Nonpainters will enjoy additional tours and excursions while the painters are busy in the studio. This tour is filling quickly! Contact for registration details.




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Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1800 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

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  1. Whenever I try to read Nancy’s blog the screen constantly changes to The Joyful Brush. I can’t get it to go back to the blog. Is it because I’m on my phone? I’m missing the info in the blog. Please help?

    • Sorry for the difficulty Barbara! There is an “x” in the top right corner that closes that screen. I’ve asked my Web developer to give us some more visible options on that in future. Thanks for letting me know about this!

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