3 Reminders from Painting 30 Dogs in 30 Days

In June, I did something so fun and colorful and purposeful.It was such a great use of my time and energy and creativity. I got so excited about it and, I’m still getting the benefits from it almost a month later – so I thought I’d share it with you in this post. 

A Dog a Day

To give a little background information, in May I got the nudge that I wanted to make some dog portraits. I have been spending a lot of time with a lot of cute dogs lately so I’ve been taking so many cute dog pictures. I got the idea of turning some of those pictures into miniature painted portraits by transferring the photos onto canvas then painting over them. The mini portraits did NOT turn out well, at all – but, that nudge to get out my paints did make me want to learn how to actually paint a dog portrait on my own. So I looked for a few tutorials and watched a few videos and gave it a try. 

It was SO fun and rewarding and enjoyable. After the first few tutorials I realized I could probably really improve my skill and technique if I painted a lot more and if I practiced every day. 

So, I decided to come up with a project for June. I called it A Dog a Day. My plan was to paint a dog everyday in June. I was so excited to get started. I told everyone what I was doing. I stocked up on canvases and paint and brushes. I started collecting and organizing pictures of the dogs I would paint in the coming weeks. 

My June Project

June came and I got started. It was fun and motivating and interesting and exciting. It was also a little challenging. By the end of June, I had painted 30 dogs (more if you include the dogs I painted in May). I had improved my skills and my confidence. I had some amazing art to hang on my walls. I was reminded of some very valuable lessons. 

The top 3 reminders I learned from my June 2022 Project of painting 30 Dogs in 30 Days were massive action works, contrast makes things more interesting and mind management helps to make it through the messy middle. 

Massive Action Works!

I talked about how I love to learn things and the magic of taking massive action in a few of my previous posts.

I hadn’t reviewed the specific examples and steps that I shared in those posts in a while. When I re-visited them lately in preparation for today, I had to laugh at how consistent I am. I pretty much followed all of my own steps that I shared in those earlier posts for this June project. 

So if you are curious about how to learn something new and want to hear some practical tips about how to apply Massive Action, check out these posts: 

Love to Learn

The Magic of Massive Action

Benefits of Massive Action

Having the massive action plan of painting 30 dogs in 30 days no matter what created so many benefits for me. I got the momentum I wanted to start and to keep going. I felt a sense of purpose. I was able to quickly see my own progress. The people I told about the project helped keep me accountable and celebrated with me when I finished. 


You know the expression about how a journey starts with a single step? That’s momentum. Once I got started, that momentum just propelled me forward throughout the month. As soon as I saw one completed dog portrait, I could imagine seeing the other 29 completed portraits. If you are hesitating or procrastinating anything in your life, consider what a powerful motivator momentum is and just take the very first single step. 


Throughout June, I knew I would be painting a dog every day. I arranged my schedule around what time I would be painting. At the end of the day, I would think about (and sometimes also prep for) the dog I’d be painting the next day. It felt so good to have this daily plan that was part of a bigger plan. 


The progress I made was a little bit of a surprise, but it shouldn’t have been. It’s logical that if you do something every day you will see progress. But the surprise was how much I learned. I was able to see patterns in my thinking with each new painting. I could feel myself gaining experience and confidence. Plus, since I kept all the portraits in a specific album, I LOVED seeing that album grow everyday and the count get higher and higher. 


I told a few supportive, encouraging people about this plan for myself. Even if they didn’t explicitly ask throughout the month, I knew they knew and that knowledge gave me another reason to keep going. Plus, I loved the accountability of seeing the number of portraits in that album on my phone. I was so motivated to get the count up to over 30.


The day that I finished the project – June 30th – I felt so excited. 

That morning, I knew I had time to paint in the morning before my scheduled calls in the afternoon but also gave myself time after those to finish that last painting if necessary. Then, I had a Happy Hour scheduled with my friends that evening. 

I finished the painting that morning in record time and it turned out so great! So I went into my afternoon feeling so proud and light and celebratory. I put on some red lipstick and fun earrings. My joy and celebration just vibrated out of me to everyone I talked with later in the day and that night. 

Contrast Makes Things More Interesting

Do you know the concept of contrast? The idea that knowing what you don’t want shows you what you do want.

Part of it could also be about being aware of what you don’t like so you appreciate more what you do like.


In coaching circles, we also call this the 50/50 – referring to life is always 50% “bad” and 50% “good.” (I put bad and good in quotes because nothing is ever really bad or good, it’s just what we think about it). 

Light or Dark, Good or Bad

In art, a big part of what you see and perceive is the contrast (or the 50/50) on the canvas. 

But, in a painting, there’s no “good or bad” value like in life. In life, we might think certain emotions or situations have a bad, or negative or unwanted value – but in painting – it’s just contrast – light or dark – not good or bad. 

Years ago when I was taking watercolor classes, my teacher’s most common advice to me was “make it darker.” I never wanted to. I exercised my artistic freedom and kept all my paintings very light.

Now, as I’ve been painting and trying to improve my representations, I see how valuable and important contrast is. I see so clearly why my teacher encouraged me to make it darker.

Dull, Flat and Boring

The difference between the light and the dark makes things more real and interesting on the canvas – and in life too. Life (and paintings) would be dull, flat and boring without contrast. 

In art, as in life, contrast creates reflection, depth and perspective. What a good reminder for me. 

How interesting that I’m now super invested in bringing more darkness to my painting (but still afraid to allow it in life).

What about you? Have you seen examples in your own life how contrast makes it more interesting and provides you with more perspective?

Mind Management in the Messy Middle

I’ve talked about the messy middle on this podcast before when I shared the reminders I learned from renovation Reno Reminders 

Facing the messy middle every day during this month-long project really helped me see a specific pattern about getting through the tough times. 

Some common thoughts started to sound very repetitive day after day. Maybe you hear these kinds of thoughts about your own daily activities. 

Mine sounded like:

“Now it’s ruined.”

“I don’t know how to keep going from here.”

“This isn’t good.” 

“It’s not turning out like I wanted.”

As these phrases became more and more repetitive and familiar, I started to recognize “oh, I always think these thoughts when I get to this stage of the painting!”

I was actually able to notice my stages of painting and how I feel different emotions during the different stages. Some stages feel fun and I think they are easy. Some stages, I dread. 

Keep Going Despite (Untrue) Thoughts

But because I was painting a dog a day, I just kept going despite the dread and the (untrue) thoughts that I didn’t know how to keep going. 

In case you are curious about my stages of dog painting, there are 6 of them. I’ll share them here because you might be interested in my painting process, but more because you might recognize these stages as similar to something you go through in your own life, or work, or relationships, or projects. 

6 Stages of Dog Painting

  1. Planning and preparation. This stage is so fun and easy for me. I scroll through photos of cute dogs to decide who I will paint and how I will position them on the canvas. I crop the photo and size it and transfer the image onto the canvas and decide on the background color. There’s no resistance at all during this stage. It’s so easy and enjoyable that sometimes I do this for multiple paintings at once.
  2. Painting the under layer. This part is also so fun and easy. It’s actually painting and does require paying attention and noticing the values and detail and direction in the dog’s fur but it is just the under layer and will be painted over so it is so free. It’s making a mess! It’s fun!
  3. Painting the eyes and nose. I really pride myself on doing a good job on eyes and nose and I love seeing the dog “come to life” through those features. Once, when I did the eyes and nose before doing the under layer, it looked like the dog was peeking through a white sheet with holes on it until I painted the rest of the painting around it. This is also one of my favorite stages.
  4. Cleaning up the mess and detail painting. This is the stage I DREAD. All the resistance comes up for me during this stage. I wonder how I can possibly go from the mess of the under layer to the final product of a finished painting. I tell myself I don’t know how, it’s not going to turn out and everything is ruined. I lose all my motivation and momentum during this stage. I really have to manage my mind through this part. I need to just work on little sections at a time. I remind myself that none of this matters and I’ve done this before. It will probably be fine. 
  5. Finishing and making adjustments. This stage is better than the detail painting of the last stage because I’m on the other side of all my doubt and resistance. I can see that the painting does resemble the photo I’m working from. But this stage is still stressful and challenging for me because now I’ve invested so much time and emotion. I really want it all to work out. I still doubt my ability and skill. I still have to manage my mind. I just keep pushing myself to take the next step and the next step until I get to the final stage. 
  6. Deciding it’s done and Signing it. One of the favorite techniques I learned through painting a dog a day was to take a picture of my painting when I think it’s done, then toggle back and forth on my phone between the painting and the reference photo to see what can be darkened or lightened or fixed. I truly believe that figuring out this trick has improved my paintings so much. So, I’m pretty excited when I get to this stage. I’m finally on the other side of all the stress and challenge. This part is usually a little bit easier again. I finally tell myself it’s good enough. I decide to sign it and I feel a huge sense of relief! And pride! And accomplishment. And signing the painting and propping it up on my bookshelf feels like such a reward! Then I get another little dopamine hit when I take the photo of the final painting to add it to my portraits album.

Those are my 6 stages of dog painting and the 3 reminders I got from the Dog a Day project in June. 

Can You Apply?

Can you apply those reminders (or even the stages) to your life?

Massive action works, contrast makes things interesting and mind management helps with the messy middle – what do you think? 

Can you apply them to what you do every day? Or to a project that you’re curious about trying?

What’s Next?

My new project in August is that I’m experimenting to see if I can find 10 Dog Portrait Commissions. 

This is a different kind of challenge for me because it doesn’t just involve me – it includes other people deciding they want to participate. 

Because these are paid commissions, this experiment introduces the “drama of money and value and worth.”

This August experiment is also showing me how things I’ve done in the past can re-appear with different benefits that I would have never thought of before. 

For example, in January of this year, I did an engagement experiment on IG – I thought I was doing it because I thought I wanted to take my coaching practice in a more technical direction. But now I see that another benefit was that I may have been doing that experiment to prepare myself for this experiment 8 months later since I’ve decided to make another new Instagram account all about dog paintings. 

So, if you want to follow along on my August project of finding 10 Paid Dog Portrait Commissions, you can do a few things. 

You can follow the new IG account at: https://www.instagram.com/bexb.org_dogs/

You can tell your favorite dog parent about my paintings (and this post).

Consider a commissioned dog portrait for your own home – Dogs

And, beyond August? 

Who knows!? Maybe you have a suggestion or a request. 

For example, I have a few other ideas I’m thinking of for future weeks and months:

My word of the year for 2022, 

Experiments I’ve tried this year, 

Books I’m Loving right now?

What else are you curious to hear about?