This edition of Inside Art features a guest article and artwork by oil painter Barb Walker.

I was stuck! My work was okay, but not where I wanted it to be. Is it ever? Let’s just say it was not improving. What are your disciplines as a painter? Do you have some that work for you? We’re all looking for ways to push to the next level. I was definitely searching for whatever I could find to help me get better.

I kept hearing about the practice of consistent easel time and wondered if it would make a difference in my paintings. Problem was, there were so many demands crowding my day, and too often easel time got squeezed or shoved aside. I needed something to help me stay focused.

So, I picked up a journal and began recording my time at the easel with the date, the painting, and the canvas size. Didn’t matter if the painting was a success or a scraper; I noted it in my journal.

I realized this discipline was helping me treat each time I faced the canvas as a call to learn something about composition, values, colors, and brushwork. A few months in, I started noticing my bad stuff was getting better and my good stuff was making me happier. By the end of that first year, I had tallied up 179 sessions and shipped seven framed works to my first ever gallery.

I was sold on the idea of “just showing up.” 

Not only did “just showing up” get me unstuck, it moved my work forward. As the year turned, I doubled down, inspired by a quote from painter and author Joe Fig (Inside the Painter’s Studio). A sign over his studio door reads “Focus, discipline, and faith.”

Driven by my sincere love of painting and desire to pull better work out of myself, I wrote down my own three simple words at the top of my journal’s page for January one: Launch (I’m a late bloomer, so I decided to put some force behind the first word), StudyWork.

Barb Walker, Beach Day, 10 x 8 inches, oil


As for “study,” I was absorbing everything I could get my hands on, scouring social media, watching YouTube videos, and picking up instructional videos by professionals. I checked out a lot of painting books from the library. I even maxed out the number of times I could take one of them out (Painting Maine by Connie Hayes), so I moved on to a second library!

I continue the personal discipline of consistently painting to this day. I’ve learned that it serves as a good barometer of my work. If I paint less my work reflects that and becomes stagnant. Six years in, my experiment is still making a difference.

I hope you find a little inspiration of your own from reading this, and that you discover whatever it is that helps on your journey to push your work, move the dial, and keep you passionate. And remember to have a little fun while you’re at it, too!

– Barb Walker

You can view more of Barb Walker’s paintings here.