When I was in graduate school I was told by a drawing professor to draw "10 minutes a day." He said that this daily practice would help improve students' drawing immensely. Since then, I have also given the same advice to my students, from middle school on up to adults. My professor was right—the practice of drawing from observation 10 minutes a day hones your powers of observation and makes you more aware of potential subjects and more able to capture what you are seeing.
Read: Left Brain/Right Brain
While it takes a little longer than 10 minutes a day to do a painting a day, you can do a small painting in an hour and get many of the same benefits, even more. You practice your drawing and painting techniques, you learn about color and composition, and you can quickly build up an inventory of paintings to display and sell, especially if you keep your paintings small. By doing a painting a day (or at least almost every day), many of the excuses we painters might use not to paint are eliminated—i.e., not enough time, not the right time, not enough space, not the right space, not the right colors—you get the idea.
Choosing a Medium
You can use any medium to do a painting a day. You can also mix up the subject matter to keep it interesting, or you can do a series of one thing for a while until you tire of it. Paintings can be abstract or representational. If you are an abstract painter, then, by all means, do an abstract painting a day. It is true that the more paintings you do, the more ideas you get for paintings. Doing a painting a day allows you to experiment with different styles and techniques, different paint applications, different surfaces, different formats, and sizes. While small paintings are often less time-consuming and less of a commitment, you can choose any size you want. You will never tire of painting or get bored. And don't forget your iPad—you can also paint on it.
Duane Keiser was a painter who adopted the practice of daily painting over a decade ago and has become quite successful because of it, inspiring many others to become daily painters. Once he started offering his post-card sized oil paintings on eBay, they quickly became very popular. As he says on his website: "I sell this work via eBay, which has proven itself to be an efficient, secure and transparent auction system for my collectors. Bidding starts at $100 and prices have ranged from $100 to $3750."
Carol Marine also started doing daily painting in 2006 and has since then developed a highly successful art career from that practice. Her book, Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist, published in 2014, is a treasure trove of inspiration, valuable advice, instruction, exercises, and tips on photographing, organizing, and selling your work.
Any subject is suitable for daily painting. Some things you might paint include everyday objects, things for which you are grateful, places you have been, snippets of your day, portraits, still lifes, cityscapes, landscapes, pets, dreams, abstract compositions, the sky, the view from the window, whatever catches your eye.
The practice of doing a painting a day means that you quickly build up a large inventory of paintings. This allows you to avoid the common pitfall of thinking of each painting as "precious" and frees you up to experiment and take risks. If you don't like the way you did a painting one day, try it again in a different way the next day! What is important with daily painting is the process, not the result. Do not expect masterpieces, but do expect that your painting will improve greatly and you will have endless ideas for more substantial works.
Many artists have now discovered what a fulfilling, productive, and stimulating practice daily painting is. You might want to join them by signing up for Leslie Saeta's Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days Challenge. It's never too late to start daily painting!