January 2018: 30 in 30 Challenge – Results Post

January 2018: 30 in 30 Challenge – Results Post


Despite how difficult it is to complete a 30 in 30 challenge, I highly recommend it as a means to quickly advance your painting skills. It took me a year to see the same amount of improvement I saw in these 30 days. Plus, I created a bunch of paintings that I really like and am proud of.

Since finishing this challenge, I’ve been working on other paintings and the difference in how I paint is evident. My sketches are more accurate on the first try and my color mixing is also more accurate. Plus my style is a bit looser and more painterly, which I’ve really wanted to see in my work for a long time.

Below are all of my favorites from this challenge, but I’m happy with the majority of the paintings I painted. I’m especially happy with my turkey skull painting. I have seriously been trying to paint it for a couple of years and haven’t been able to figure out how to make it interesting until now. And the second to last fishing float I painted really turned out nicely. I’m not sure I even painted it. I blacked out and when I came to, there it was with my signature on it. To be honest, all of these paintings were the easiest to paint in the challenge. I feel like the ones I really struggled with have a strained look to them or maybe that’s just me remembering the struggle.



About half of my paintings are random, but the other half I found mini themes to work in. I found it a lot easier to work within the themes, but I was only able to push each one so far. The tools I had in mind before beginning this challenge. I didn’t know how they would work out and I thought I’d be able to stick with them a lot longer than I did. Many of them turned out nicely, but the allure of color drew me a way from them. My favorites are the stapler, the hammer, and the canvas pliers.



The glass fishing floats were when I really moved away from the tools. Once I started painting them, the tools felt too easy and simple and I completely lost interest in them. I just loved trying to make the floats look transparent and the color… I think I’m addicted to color.

While I thought the first blue float was ok, I thought I could do better so I painted it a second time. It’s the only object I painted twice and I have mixed feelings about it. It does look better the second time, but I struggled with it almost as much as the first time. None of my blues in any combination of other colors made the actual color of the glass which was frustrating. Both times, I painted what I would describe as a royal blue, but the actual blue was a very delicate, almost turquoise blue. Don’t be surprised if you see another blue float in the future.



I probably could have painted an entire series with the theme “glass”. I found the glass bottles very interesting to paint, especially the broken one. I adore a good glass of Pinot Noir, so wine bottle are an easy prop to come by. If I use glass as my next theme, I’m going to have to find some different interesting shapes and colors to get me though it. You can expect to see a bunch of smashed bottles too.



This challenge has made me bust out some colors I don’t normally have on my palette. I regularly have 10 colors plus white and black out on my palette and I can pretty much make every color I need with them. I ran into some situations that required different colors though. Right now I have 15 colors out plus 2 whites and 2 blacks. Things are getting crowded.

I think it was an unexpected bonus that my color mixing skill would increase as much as my painting skill. It just hadn’t occurred to me, but it seems pretty obvious now that it would increase naturally with practice just like painting.


#19 left, #29 right


First off, I was stupid excited to finally, FINALLY, use my Phthalo Green. I’ve seriously had a tube of it for over 10 years and haven’t ever successfully used it in a painting. I was on the verge of getting rid of it. It was a tube a failure lurking at the back of my paint drawer. Every time I tried to use it in the past it was just too overpowering and every mix I made with it was horrible. For green, I’ve always relied on sap green or my own mixes and I never liked sap green very much. For a short-cut color it really doesn’t save me any mixing time.

The green glass of #19 was the perfect opportunity to use Phthalo Green. Mixed with a touch of Prussian Blue, it was the exact color I was after. I also used it in #29 mixed with cadmium lemon and a touch of Permanent Madder Deep to tone it down. Since then, I’ve found use for it in another paintings too. I used it to create a very bright, pure green that just didn’t want to mix up before. Now that I know how to use it, it’s one of my favorite new colors and now a permanent addition to my palette. I’m excited to see what else I can mix up with it.


#17 6×6 oi on gesso board “Red Right Returning”


In #17, I needed a lighter red that wasn’t too pink, too yellow, or pastel in the center of the float. I initially tried to mix it with Cadmium Red Light, but after several mixes that were off, I busted out my Azo Coral. I’m now convinced that I can’t just replace Cadmium Red Light with Azo Coral even though they are nearly identical colors. Azo Coral is a transparent color and Cad Red is an opaque color and I definitely prefer the opacity of the Cadmium the majority of the time.

To get my color, I mixed Azo Coral with Flake White Replacement and a bit of Lemon Yellow. It worked beautifully and was exactly the color I was after. Flake White Replacement is a transparent white where Titanium White is an opaque white and doesn’t have as much tinting power making it ideal for more subtle color mixing. It’s still a relatively new color for me. I’ve had it for several months and used it a handful of times. It’s stringy and dries fast, which throws me off a bit, but I’m trying to use it more.



I knew finding a place to store all of these wet paintings was something to figure out before I started. I looked and looked for solutions to this issue before starting and didn’t find much on it. A lot of people seemed to just lean them up all over their house. I have cats, dogs, and kids though so there wasn’t any way I could let them dry anywhere but in my studio if I wanted them to be safe. Plus, I live in an extremely dusty area so all of my paintings have to lean forward to prevent too much dust sticking to the wet paint. I can’t go around leaning them against walls or on bookshelves. I’ll get paint on everything. I decided the best route was to stick skewers in boxes. For a while my husband was on a kabab kick and bought a new pack of skewers every time he made them so we have a ton of skewers lying around.



Here is a photo of my set up. You can see my itty bitty still life box with my flashlight light source. If I do this challenge again, I’m definitely building a much bigger box. I was surprised at how limiting it was to have to find things that fit within that tiny box. I swear, almost nothing fits in there.

I mentioned in a previous post about getting a plug-in light. I went through a whole mess of batteries for that flash light and painted several paintings too dark because I didn’t realize my flashlight was dim. I had to scrape off paint and repaint once I put fresh batteries in. It was frustrating and wasted a ton of time. The only things I really liked about the flashlight was that it had a nice neutral light that wasn’t overpoweringly bright.

The first thing I did once I finished the last painting was to open the curtains. I paint with my back to the window so in order to get good lighting on my subject I had to paint in a dark room. It was refreshing to get some natural light in there after almost a whole month of darkness.

You can also see my mess of a palette. I don’t recommend this shape by the way. The glass is too heavy to hold in your hand for any extended period of time and you lose a lot of mixing area to the rounded shape and thumb hole. Also, since the white and black are so low down, I’m constantly sticking my elbows in them.  One of these days I’m going to get a rectangle of glass to fit my Masterson palette box and all of my paint piles will be along the top edge.




8 thoughts on “January 2018: 30 in 30 Challenge – Results Post”

  • Wow, I am so glad you were able to paint for 30 days straight! With the needs around me, I am still trying to find my perfect time slot but am so encouraged to see you, as well as others, paint each day. Question:? What did you stick the skewers in? Thanks again for the encouragement you give artists with your blog🎨

  • A really informative post Amber – especially liked your comments on paint colours. I had someone recommend pthalo green to me a while ago, and I haven’t found a need for it as yet – so I haven’t bought it. But I do love my Pthalo Blue – so I imagine the two are similarly ‘dangerous’ to work with? Mix in small doses? The flake white information was new to me – I will see if I can get me hands on some of that… Also, where do you get your panels from? Are they pre-primed, or do you apply your own gesso to them? Well done again – you may just have inspired me!

    • Thanks, I’m glad I can help! The Phthalo green is definitely a very strong color. Since you’re used to Phthalo blue, I image you would adjust easily. I always found Phthalo green to be an odd shade that you would never find in nature. Now that I’m better at color mixing though, I was able to get some really beautiful vibrant greens as well as muted greens. It makes a really pretty sea-foam type green that would be perfect for an ocean wave painting. The flake white replacement I have is from Gamblin. Just be aware that it is thick, stringy, and dries relatively quickly. Since it’s quick dry I was thinking of trying to use it more in lower layers. I bought my panels from dickblick.com. They are Ampersand gessoboards which are preprimed and the small 6×6 size comes in 4-packs so they’re really affordable.

  • Wow, Amber, so glad I found you. What a great blog! The skewers are brilliant. The information on paint colors and mixes is so helpful. But, most importantly, your art is so good and your choices for subject matter are inspiring. We all tend to wait for that perfect bouquet or landscape or whatever, and you demonstrate that there’s beauty in everyday items. Congratulations on finishing the challenge already. Now, you can sit back a bit and enjoy the fruits of your efforts.

    • Laurelle, thank you for such a nice comment! I appreciate the feedback. I’m so happy to be finished. It was a really hard challenge. I heard a while ago that lighting is everything when it comes to painting. When what you are painting is the effect of light, the subject is almost secondary. I think that is what makes simple, every day things interesting. I hope that makes sense. Stefan Baumann explains it really well. He has some really informative videos on youtube that are worth checking out.

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