What to Do When a Painting Goes 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. Creative types such as musicians, composers, producers, dancers, writers, artists, photographers, cooks, and makers of all types, can probably tell you what it feels like to hit a wall with a project, how it felt, and what they did to navigate that feeling of utter frustration. 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 because I know that I am not good at these things, so my expectations of success in these domains are much lower than for painting or drawing since I have no training in cookery or housekeeping.  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.

Romola Illustration with Lillian Gish, Mixed Media, Jodie Schmidt, 2022.

I recently read a forum question on the website, 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 can “look like a dog’s breakfast.” I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some 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. Others were not as familiar such as putting the painting somewhere where you can see it, such as on an easel in a living room, and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. Another favorite technique 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 artwork 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 colors and values, and composition were some of the biggest glaring errors.  I am realizing there are many reasons why this painting series of poetry illustration works have been abandoned. One of which was being too busy with other things to give the series the proper amount of time it requires to get things right, such as the composition and the drawing. Since I dropped out of the Social Work program at Frederick Community College, I do have more time to work on paintings.

And since I have deliberately looked at my schedule e and started marking studio days on the calendar, I have more “intentional “time. But I am also realizing just how hard this series is, as I am making some paintings almost entirely from scratch by combining different photo references in Photoshop and then drawing and painting them, with this technique, I do not have the luxury of working from reference photos already taken. I have to look for source material and then combine it to make it my own.  This project is highlighting areas of weakness in me as an artist, and one of them is composition. I have a tendency to put everything in the middle and don’t often use more unconventional compositional styles. I want to change that and start looking to master artworks to try and broaden my skills in this area.

Another great way to improve your painting skills is to draw, yes draw. Regularly and in a sketchbook if you can, as much as you can so that you can practice things like composition, color, proportions, etc. It can also help you see patterns in your work, such as a favorite subject you return to, or a color palette. A sketchbook is also a great place to try out a variety of art media since it doesn’t feel as precious as a large painting can sometimes feel. This week I am featuring photos from my old sketchbook to show just how diverse you can be in art media. I include mixed-media collages and colored pencil drawings. The sky really is the limit with sketchbooks!

Lillian Gish as Romola, Mixed Media, Jodie Schmidt, 2022.
Jodie Schmidt, After Alphonse Mucha, Mixed media, 2022.
Fruit Bowl Drawing, Colored pencil, Jodie Schmidt, 2022.
Radishes with paper bag, Colored Pencil, Jodie Schmidt, 2022.

Update on New Art Classes: Winter 2022

Hello Friends, Family, Visitors, and potential Students,

I will be teaching a number of classes at the Delaplaine Art Center starting in February. In February, I will be teaching a Beginning Pastels Course, where I will guide you through basic techniques of pastel, such as broken color, shading, and simple drawing skills, such as working with basic shapes. We will gradually work our way through these skills and learn to work from black and white gray scales to full color with gradient scales, gradients, and color wheels. As a final project, we will copy Monet’s haystacks series in which we will apply broken color techniques and color mixing to replicate the style of the Impressionists. To learn more about this course, or to sign up, please visit https://delaplaine.org/instruction/classes-workshops/drawing/.

The Dream of Time Travel: Extreme Makeover

Voices and Visions: Work in Progress: Extreme Makeover

Make Time for Art

For the past two weeks, I have really been making an effort to make time to get into my art studio and work on my Voices and Visions series, every Thursday from 10 am-12 pm. It’s been challenging. I am focusing on finishing one piece of artwork that I started a few weeks ago, called, The Dream of Time Travel. This mixed media piece has gone through many changes and edits. I’ve subtracted some elements and added others trying to find the right composition and color scheme to express the emotions I want viewers to feel when looking at this artwork.

The Creative Process: Dream of Time Travel

And yet, I am still trying to figure out just what that feeling might be that I want the viewer to take away from my painting. Is it sadness, longing, discontent, or some other emotion? I feel that finding the answer to this question will be the key to solving the difficulties I have had with completing this piece in terms of composition, color choices and subject matter.

Extreme Makeover

I began making my edits on this piece by cutting up my color sketches in watercolor and adding other elements such as paint chips for the clouds. After that, I took more drastic measures, cutting out anything from the painting that did not add to the composition, seeking simplicity. Even after hours of work, I could see that I needed to start the whole project over from scratch, because some elements of the piece just didn’t work, especially the imaginary ones, like the road leading to the fairy tale book. I realized that trying to do a surrealist style in this work, and it just wasn’t working.

Back to the Drawing Board

After I realized that the piece was not working, I decided to start over from scratch and gather my own photo references of self-portraits and a landscape to combine them into a Photoshop collage. Then, after I had placed all of my photos into the collage, I began drawing the composition free hand, trying to make it the same scale as the photo reference. While I was working on this piece, I realized I need to draw more often, and that I had become too reliant on tracing photos for my art, rather than drawing from life or photo references. So, my new piece is a sketch that I still need to finish, but one that I think will be easier to complete as a painting.

 

The Takeaways from the Creative Process

Otherdream of travel with hands, flatdream of travel with flowers_edited-1dream of travel, landscape_edited-1, flatPhoto College Dream_edited-1Dream of Travel Version 2, sketch_edited-1 takeaways from this project are: 1.) Sometimes you just need to get started on art to make progress, even if you’re out of practice, 2.) Failed art pieces can be the springboard for new art, 3.) Simple compositions work best for me, 4.) I need to draw more often, 5.) Drawing from one’s imagination is really difficult, and perhaps I need to stick to a more realistic style, and 6.) I need to think about what emotion I want my viewers to feel from my artwork, which will influence my color and compositional choices. Through it all, I am learning that everything on my journey of creativity is useful to me and that good art can’t be rushed, not for me anyway.