If you’re an artist, you probably have a large stack of paintings that don’t measure up to your standards. The longer you paint, the more this becomes a difficult thing to deal with. I learn something from every painting I do and my skills continue to grow accordingly. As artists, we are the keepers of our creative destiny and get to decide what to keep and what to toss.
I’ve read about painters that save all of their “failed” artwork and use it to create a bonfire every few years because the paintings don’t live up the artist’s own quality guidelines and they feel that this would degrade the scope of their over-all work.
I know artists who never sell their work because they feel that a piece of their soul is tied up in the piece.
Sometimes I’m just gobsmacked when a piece of art I really didn’t like sells quickly, and the prints from that painting continue to sell, consistently. Over time, I’ve learned that what I like and what someone else likes won’t necessarily be the same thing. Over that, I still shake my head sometimes, and that brings me to my next point.
Someone somewhere is going to love that painting that I just can’t stand. Every painting exists as part of my body of work, as part of my artistic journey. I learn at least one thing from every painting that I create. I’ve only destroyed one painting, and I regret it. It wasn’t finished, and at that time, I didn’t think I could do anything with it. I had fallen in love with a stone wall in Kainaliu and taken a picture to paint just before an earthquake took it down, and here it is. This photo is the only proof that this painting ever existed.
And, I regret it. This was very early painting days for me. I put a lot of time into this painting. I outlined each individual rock in black. What did I learn from this painting? So much.
That I could lose myself in my work
Never lose track of the big picture
Paint things that move you
Rocks are never entirely one color
Get the entire canvas covered with paint before you make any major decisions about a painting.
Don’t outline rocks in black!
Things are never as bad as you think they are
Now, I could have done so much with this painting and turn it into something spectacular. I may paint it again someday because I still love the wall.
So tell me. If you’re an artist, what do you do with your “failed” or what you consider sub-par paintings?
As always, the caveat is, it’s done for now. I’m happy with it, in fact, I’m so happy with it I want it in MY ROOM. I seem to have this belief that I can’t really paint people well, and then I’m surprised when I do. Hell, I’m surprised when they are recognizable! *Shakes my head…* Sometimes the inside of my head is no place to be.
Have I been comparing my work to other artists’? Yes. Sigh.
Does my art continue to improve? Yes!
Do people enjoy my work? Yes!
Do I still love what I do? Yes!
Then I’m on the right track!
One of my goals for this blog is to point out that becoming an artist, frankly becoming anything, isn’t a straight line. I’ve seen so many blogs where everything is sweetness and light, and everything moves along swimmingly according to the “Master Plan.” This certainly hasn’t been my experience, and it is how we handle these challenges that make us who we are.
Most of my paintings feel like ongoing problem-solving sessions. The last thing I do each day is to create a punch list of what I want to accomplish the next time I sit down to work on it. Creating this list gives me a good starting point. This continues to happen until I near the end of the process and THAT is when I usually start to feel the energy of what a painting can become. My teacher, Rose Adare, hits this point before she even puts a mark on the canvas. (That’s why SHE’s the teacher!) I’ve only managed that a few times so far, and each time resulted in a spectacular piece.
It is important to become aware of what your process is. Everyone has rituals that they go through as they work on something. Become aware of your self-talk and recognize what you are saying to yourself. Find a way to check criticism, self-doubt, and judgment at the door. All that negativity does is make the process take longer to accomplish something that was going to happen anyway. This painting took at least twice as long as it should have because of all the negative self-talk I was dealing with. In some ways, it is a reverse Dorian Gray. All the angst, frustration and judgement went into this painting and came out as a sense of peace. It was worth the journey!
I’m learning a lot as I go along. One of them is figuring out how to divorce myself from the picture and paint what I see. It can be an emotional thing to do a self-portrait. You almost never appear in a picture the way you see yourself. I now realize that I picked challenging lighting and a difficult pose. Oh no, nothing straight-forward for me! During this process though, I find I’m making finding some peace with myself.
I’ve gone from age 16 male to 30-something female so I think I’m making headway. I haven’t come up with a good idea for a background yet so I just threw something in there. Uh, take it from me and don’t do that. Especially don’t make it flat black. Sigh. Every time I think I’m “growing up” as an artist I go and do something childish. Focus and paying attention are so important. When you strive for realism you need to paint what you see, not what you think is there. If you have to make it up, have a plan in place. In my experience, “winging it” rarely works in my favor. Not with realism.
Here’s my other painting. I’m still moving forward.
Toning down the entire side of his face made a huge difference. Even with half of his mustache and beard missing it “reads” as being there because the colors are correct.