The type of detailed painting I like to do is necessarily a SLOW process.
It is not an activity that lends itself to instant gratification. Quite the opposite.
But that’s what makes it a fantastic antidote to our speed obsessed culture these days.
Our culture considers time to be a scarce and finite resource that we are always running out of.
Better hurry!
I’ve just watched this ironically very speedy talk by Carl Honore about his book ‘In praise of slowness’.
In it he describes some of the positive health benefits (mental and physical) of slowing down on a regular basis.
And painting is one activity where we can and should chose to slow down.
Even if we can only paint for an hour at a time. Or even 30 minutes. We don’t need to rush. If we accept that the process will take time, we can relax into it and simply focus on the current stage we are working on, without becoming fixated on finishing…NOW

If you’re someone who tends to want to rush your painting, wanting the finished product over and above a relaxing painting session try this approach….
Have an extra S..L..O..W painting session.
See just how slowly you can paint. Make that the goal.
I don’t mean by leaving your painting un-worked on for weeks at a time (that’s a whole other kind of slow), I mean slow down the physical act of painting.
We can treat it as a kind of meditation.
And I think you’ll be surprised at how enjoyable it can be.
I stumbled upon this myself when I was Artist in Residence for a full 7 days at a museum a few years ago. I’d only brought one subject, an orchid, to paint, and by the end of the first day I realised that I’d totally overestimated how long it was going to take me. But it was January and I had no other subject to work on.
So I decided to do an experiment and see if I could make the painting last for the full 7 days. I did, and it was extremely relaxing.
And I think others could pick up on the relaxed way I’d painted the flower as someone bought it from me before I’d even finished it!
So as Carl Honore urges, if you want to feel more relaxed and actually more productive, get in touch with your inner tortoise.
I’d love to hear from you if rushing and speeding are an issue for you. How have you managed to slow down?


  1. Amie Matthews 4 years ago

    I am constantly frustrated with how long my sketches and paintings take. My brain tells me that taking long somehow means that I’m not as good as others. Thank you for the reminder that it’s ok to go slow.

  2. Patty Latimer 3 years ago

    Thank you for the Ted Talk. During these challenging times it is a good reminder to slow down and smell the roses. Watercolor painting is therapeutic creativity.

  3. Leslie Muennemann 3 years ago

    Yes, it is a constant issue for me in this painting process.. That need for quick gratification is strong despite conscious denial. Now i keep multiple subjects going at the same time to try and appease that need giving the paint enough time to dry, at least. I keep Anna’s breakdown of steps in mind, focusing on the lightest tone of each hue first. Just identifying the subtle difference in hue takes me a long time and is rewarding. Matching it is also time consuming and enjoyable.

  4. Rebecca Jo Lepper 3 years ago

    I really don’t have a problem with the slower pace of painting. I, when I’m working, am on the go all the time as I do home health so when I sit down to paint it makes me slow down. This article gave some good advice.

  5. Beryl Rabbas 3 years ago

    Oh I love this article … thank you Anna. I am a born slow-at-everything and enjoy painting slowly so you won’t be surprised if I tell you that my favourite creature is a sloth.

    Wishing you a very happy 40th birthday. xx

  6. LadyCinnamon 3 years ago

    Thanks so much for this new insight, Anna. For most of my adult life I’ve wanted to “get things done” in order to feel I’d accomplished something with the day. Then at the end of the day, when I don’t get everything done, I feel I’ve lost out again. So now that I’m home on lockdown, I’m trying to take one project at a time and take the time it takes to work on it. I’d rather enjoy the process than rush to get it done quickly and move on to the next project.

    • bevh39 3 years ago

      Thanks so much for this article. I have always tried to fit heaps of things into every day and my painting seems to go the same way. Want to finish this before lunch etc. This is where I go wrong as I start off slowly and then speed up. Of course there is no rush – I am retired. Once again thank you for your constant reminders and by the way I hope you had a wonderful Birthday despite the lockdown.

  7. alison p Haddock 3 years ago

    I’m ok with being slow but have always felt like I needed to learn to speed up. I have had art teachers in the past that would complain about how slow I was which turned me against art for many years. Now as a wiser older adult, I don’t care what they think because I’m happy working just like I am. Thank you for this article, I love it’s message.

  8. Gloria 3 years ago

    Thank you Anna for all your idea’s they have helped me a lot. I am a slow painter but it makes me relax and I’m in a world of my own.
    Wishing you a very happy birthday ,forty years young .

  9. Lise Bowles 3 years ago

    Dear Anna,
    Happy 40th, you don’t look a day over 25!
    I love the Opera Rose hair doo, its stunning!
    Thank you for the reminder about slowing down. I have a tendency to pressure myself to work on my paintings, and so I will continue to procrastinate because of the pressure I put on myself. Sometimes it doesn’t feel relaxing.
    Actually even though I am retired and I don’t have anyone who relies on me, (except my chihuahua and my husband for dinner) I still rush too much. So, needless to say, I have actually enjoyed the way that this pandemic has slowed down my life. We go for our bike rides and enjoy the beauty of the balmy outdoors in Florida. Of course it is tragic that the illness has affected so many people.
    I appreciated the TED talk, although I must say, for someone who is making a point about slowing down, he spoke a wee bit fast for me, LOL.
    Thank you again Anna for all you’ve taught me,

  10. dee 3 years ago

    I so needed to hear this today! Even in lockdown I am not easing up on my self!! I need to stop and smell the roses and maybe even paint them!!
    happy 40th xxx

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