What to Do When Your Painting Goes Terribly Wrong

If you are a creative type or if you like to make things, you have probably encountered the moment when the finished product you imagined, does not live up to your expectations. As an artist, I have experienced this frustration more times than I can count. Some paintings and drawings are simply learning projects and are difficult to salvage, while others can be fixed. I know it’s been said that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, but when I get to a point in a painting or drawing and I realize that the painting or drawing doesn’t look right, it can be really frustrating. I start doubting myself; feel like giving up, or doing something that I am not good at, like cooking or cleaning.  Since I know I am not a good cook, if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s a waste of ingredients but I don’t feel as emotionally attached to the outcome as I would to a painting or drawing.

I recently read a forum question on the website, www.

photo collage, pregnancy, desert, eye, dress forms, seeds, woman, process, artist's block.
Here is a photo collage I made in Adobe Photoshop which I made by combining various photographs in the Photoshop program. I wanted to illustrate the feeling of artists’ block, which can feel like a time of dormancy. I plan to translate this collage into a watercolor painting soon.
Waiting small
My first version of this painting was made with sepia brown watercolor paints. I’m not sure I like this color and the composition feels too busy.
Portrait Collage
Creative Block: Waiting ( with Gesso added). The composition was getting too cluttered so I decided to cover up the distracting elements with acrylic gesso.
Creative block, with color
I painted out the brown watercolor paint to try and make the image more interesting with a limited color palette of yellow orange, red orange, blue, green, peach and blue violet. Still a little too busy with the composition.
Portrait collage
Here is the revision I made after painting out the busier composition with acrylic gesso. I also decided to limit the color palette to turquoise, red-orange, yellow-orange, blue- violet and muted green, with some additions of brown, black and white. I used a soft pastel to draw in the composition after the acrylic paint had dried.
Portrait collage
This is my most up to date version of the acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. Here I have begun painting in the new compositional elements to add depth to the desert landscape, including sand dunes and distant mountains. I also painted in the flesh tones and shadow colors on the figure. A few more details and I hope to be finished with the painting soon!

Wet Canvas.com and the question of the day was,” When should I stop working on a painting?” I was intrigued by the question and wondered how other artists dealt with paintings that don’t go according to plan. I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some remedies were familiar to me, like my tendency to put the painting away and stop looking at it for a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. On the other hand, some solutions were not as familiar, such as displaying the painting on an easel in a living room and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. A favorite technique of mine is to write a list of things I want to change in the painting, be it the drawing, colors, value, edges, etc.  In my case, some of the art work I have abandoned was started about two years ago, and I am just now starting to look at the sketches and Photoshop files.

This week I took some time to work some more on my acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. I realized that there were several things bothering me about it. The composition was one of the biggest glaring errors I noted in this painting. First, I started with revising the composition in Photoshop, taking out some photos while adding others, to try and simplify the painting.  After that, I wrote a written critique and consulted a landscape painting art book, entitled, Paint Landscapes in Acrylic, by Lee Hammond, to search for tutorials on painting skies. Next, I watched a You Tube art tutorial, titled, How to Paint a Desert Tree, Acrylic Painting Lesson, by Schaeffer Art.  My next step was to begin painting out the busier parts of the composition with gesso. After the first two layers of gesso had dried, I started drawing the new composition in with a white Rembrandt soft pastel, using the photo references I had collected to draw in the distant mountains, sand dunes, and sun. My final step was to look in my portrait painting book by Chris Saper, Classic Portrait Painting in Oils, from which I took inspiration for the figure in my painting. I have included the various stages of this painting from the start to my latest revisions on it this week. Thanks for stopping by!

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