MUSKOGEE, Okla. — It took James Harelson 25 minutes to paint a still life on Wednesday.

He said he hopes to paint faster over the next few days. Harelson is taking up the Five-Day Painting Challenge, an online project sponsored by South Carolina artist and teacher Mary Gilkerson. The challenge, which began Wednesday and runs through Monday, encourages participants to paint a new painting each day within 20 minutes.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” he said. “I’m not a professional artist, but I like painting, and it looked like fun to exercise and do some different stuff for a change.” 

Muskogee Art Guild President Becky Lucht said she knows of 15 area artists who have taken up the challenge. 

“The goal is to create a painting each day for five days, and do it within a very short period of time,” Lucht said, adding that Gilkerson “has been real motivational while everybody’s isolating, and trying to keep us all engaged.”

For example, Lucht said Gilkerson tells artists to put on a song they love and dance to it before they start painting.

“When you start painting you’ll be ready to go,” Lucht said.

Lucht said she seeks to keep Guild members “active and engaged” while concern over the coronavirus and COVID-19 keeps them at home. 

“I think it’s a great stress reliever, while everybody is all anxious,” she said. “When you’re doing art, usually you get into it, you get into the flow, and the world sort of recedes.”

Harelson said he usually paints portraits, but has gotten into landscapes. He said the project has challenged him to excel. Another challenge has been to get the colors and palette right, he said. 

For his first painting, he put an apple and a clementine orange on a Navy blue cloth, then used acrylics to paint the still life.

“I’m looking to enhance my thoughts and get my layouts faster,” he said.

Lucht said the premise is to challenge artists to get better and see improvements after five days, Lucht said.

“Hopefully, your fifth one will be better than your first one,” she said.

Gilkerson’s website offers tips on how to meet the challenge.

“You get all your tools ready and you have your paint mix,” Lucht said. “You already know what you’re going to paint, and you’ve already figured out the layout of it.”

Participating artists are encouraged to post photos of each painting on the Gilkerson’s website.

“I also think we could have our members post them on the guild’s Facebook page,” Lucht said.

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