9 reasons to paint in multiples

Although these days I almost always paint in multiples, I used to make one painting at a time.

It’s a completely valid approach and works for many artists, particularly – from my observation – for those whose work is very detailed and precise or photorealistic.

It didn’t work that well for me – although it took me way too long to realise why – as my natural way of working is mostly fast and loose, involving a lot of spontaneity as well as more considered detail.

I’d start a painting in a flurry of excitement and wild abandon – fear of the blank canvas was never one of my demons – but would often end up following a similar pattern.

I’d gradually find myself quite literally painting myself into a corner; marks would get tighter, I’d obsess over a single area until it felt right, only to find it had thrown the rest of the painting out, and frustration and stuckness were frequent visitors.

Today I thought I’d share why I’ve found it more effective to paint in multiples, particularly perhaps for those of us who work in a more expressive, loose way, or are trying to!

painting in multiples

1. It allows for more spontaneity and freedom

…meaning looser, more expressive marks. {The holy grail. Or one of them. ;)}

2. If you get stuck, you just move onto another one

Thus encouraging the flow state.

3. It creates natural series or collections

Starting several at once in a similar way, or even as if they were all part of a single painting, as I often do, effortlessly creates a cohesive collection of paintings.

4. The paintings talk to each other

A discovery made on one might be transferable to another that has got stuck.

5. When the energy drops out of one, you have more to play with

Yay! Keep painting!

6. It builds momentum

You can move between paintings moment to moment, meaning you can potentially stay in the zone longer and make more finished pieces.

7. It allows for switching pace according to your own energy

If I’m feeling quiet and still, I’ll work on a painting that needs detail and careful drawing; if I’m full of beans I’ll throw paint and make some starts. Because I have several on the go at different stages, there’s always something to work on, whatever my mood or state.

8. Less paint wastage

If you’re someone who tends to end up with more paint squeezed out than you’ll use, or you live somewhere warm where it dries out too quickly to leave covered overnight, problem solved! Use up the excess to start new paintings, or to ‘break in’ some sketchbook pages.

Which leads to…

9. Bypass blank canvas syndrome

Use up that paint on new canvases/paper/panels, and next time you paint you’ll already have something to work on. No more going into the studio and fiddling about because you don’t know what to start with. {Or less of it, anyway!}


No doubt there are plenty more good reasons to paint in multiples. Do you work this way? Why does it work {or not work} for you?

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