Trashing a painting

  • I have a perfectionist streak in me and when I make a small mistake in a paintings I find myself losing patience and then rapidly making other mistakes and then getting so discouraged, all I can do is scrap the painting and start again.  Just today I picked up a piece of paper from my scrap pile which I use for colour testing and when I turned it over, I saw this lovely half of a painting and wondered what possessed me to destroy it in this way!

    This is a recurring pattern with me and I am learning to walk away from the painting for a few minutes and recover my composure then come back to it with more calmness.

    So many of my mistakes are caused by impatience – NOT LETTING THE PAINT DRY.  I now work with a book or my smart-phone next to me and force myself to paint with gaps of reading time in which the painting can really dry.

    Just wondering if anyone else would like to share any thoughts along these lines . . .


    Great topic, because I think most artists have that inner critic, and have to find some way to deal with him.  I still get in the zone, and suddenly realize that I’m fighting with my painting.  I also find that sometimes I’m taking the frustrations of the day into my work.  A lot of us paint to relax and I suppose it isn’t surprising that sometimes we relax just enough to let those frustrations surface.

    I have two ways to avoid this. One is to work on more than one painting at a time – let one dry while I work on the other.  If I start fighting with both of them, then I know it’s my mood and I quit painting pictures and do charts for  a day or so.  The other thing is that I post all my work online, whether I like it or not.  I can usually tell from the response whether I off base or not.  That helps me know when I’m actually making mistakes or just listening to the inner critic.

    Of course, sometimes none of this works. I just accept that I’m going to misjudge a certain amount of work and try to move on when I do.

    Absolutely, and I try to remember that most paintings go through the gangly, uncomfortable teen years before they reach adulthood 🙂


    Good topic. I’m going to think on it.

    So true. I’m a total beginner and that is already a big problem for me. You are right though, the next morning things look so much better.  (Well, not always, but…)  I’m taking some courses online from a lady in France. I expressed my frustrating habit of not waiting for things to dry and then ruining them. She told me what she does when she is feeling impatient is that she starts something else while she is waiting for the other to dry.  I’m definitely going to give that a try!

    I’ve had similar situations 🙂  I think the key is to know up front if the painting is a more loose faster painting that is going to be done Alla Prima or one that is going to take several steps.  On the latter plan your breaks and start with a fresh eye.   So very few things can’t be fixed or adjusted so we just need to be fresh sp we see it.  Those magic eraser sponges are pretty cool for fixing mistakes if you have never given them a try before.

    I try to work on several paintings at the same time, so, when one is drying, I’m adding to another painting. I don’t use a hair dryer on my watercolours because I think it affects the natural flow, and doesn’t allow for colour movement and blending.

    Too, I’ve learned not to be so hasty in my painting judgements. I tossed a painting into my trash bucket because it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to, and a friend came along and, after asking, fished it out, took it home, and had it framed. She hung it up in her home and has had many compliments on it. When I look at the painting now, it looks pretty good, and I can’t believe I tossed it away!

    I think for me, that I often have a preconceived idea of how the painting should look, and I try to force the watercolours to my way of thinking, but that seldom works out. That leads to frustration and tossing work. When I allow the paint to do its own thing, then see what has happened, and then take the painting another step further, and work with it rather than trying to force it, things tend to go a bit smoother, and I’m often happier with the outcome.

    I find that walking away from my work often allows me a fresh look at what’s happening on the paper. That bit of distance takes me away from focusing on a small section or element of the work and gives me an overall view of the progress, or lack of progress, I’m making.  It sometimes sparks a new direction. And sometimes I’m surprised by something in the painting that I might have missed just plodding along. 😉

    I also work on more than one painting or sketch at a time… helps me be patient.  I think the Critic in us is a helpful voice at the right time, but has little to do with the creative process…  So learning not to dance to that voice is a good thing.  It takes watercolors.

    But I come from years as an acrylic painter, and of course you can almost always save an acrylic painting.  The Zenny in me loves watercolor for the happy accidents and I’ve come to go with the flow.  Also, my husband says I don’t know what others like… and I think that is true.

    Thanks for the reply Sandra – are you straitsandra on Instagram?  If so I’ve just started following you
    (I’m @tom_cunliffe_art) Your work is really really good.

    I like the idea of working on two paintings at a time.  I post to Instagram three or four times a week usually (I’m retired so I paint most days).


    That’s why I love communities like Doodlewash.  I make myself post the work I don’t like, and it helps reinforce the fact that people often like what I don’t.  It helps quiet that inner critic and let me look at the work with a different attitude.  Doesn’t always help at the time I’m painting, but does help give me the patience to stay with it.

    Tom, I think I missed answering this, but yes.  I am the culprit, StraitSandra on Instagram.  There is another Sandra Strait (or two)  on Instagram (and other social media), so I’m glad you found me!


    I have been painting since 2007 and I still have my very first painting pad that I used to start with,   looking back at some of the dreadful paintings ,it has encouraged me to keep going.  I have thrown very few away but I do have a rather large file 13.

    Just recently we had a tank in the loft that decided to part company with a pipe causing a rather nasty waterfall into my office and down through to the kitchen. luckily no paintings were damaged, but it did mean all my art stuff was put away.and the art I could get to was in file 13.   studying some of the old stuff I found perhaps I could tart them up and see what happens,   some have have come out really well  as  I now have a little more  experience to improve them, some I have enhanced using coloured pencils and have been amazed at the outcome.  so I recommend don’t throw away.   leave and enhance at a later time.  your paintings will talk to you and you will know which and what to do with them.   I will put my soap box away for a another time.  hope this helps to save some paper   thanks     Tao

    And if you decide you REALLY don’t like a painting, after a year or two, you can tear it into pieces and use it to make a 3D mosaic on another painting that you think needs to be spruced up.


    Great idea, Sandra.

    works for me Sandra

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