Trashing a painting

Viewing 12 posts - 16 through 27 (of 27 total)
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    Jill Gustavis

    Totally joining in on the ‘have no patience to watch it dry’ club. To combat that impatience, I also do the multiple paintings at once or set it aside until next session, and all that good stuff. I do turn over unsatisfactory paintings, and if I don’t like that side either, I’ve been setting them aside to try my hand at homemade paper next year.

    Funny enough I also took a Skillshare class on ‘how to be productive’ I kid you not. Seemed counter intuitive watching a video online addressing productivity, lol, but he suggested keeping a journal or what you were doing and then look back at when you were successful, or unsuccessful. I didn’t keep a journal, but I did start paying attention. I found 2 things that were negativity influencing my painting sessions.

    During breaks, I now try not to go on my computer if I plan to return to painting. I find I develop bad posture slouching on my stool despite my best efforts, develop some back pains or just become stiff and uncomfortable and then, when I do return to painting, I’m grumpy and confront every slight imperfection as a disaster and find I’m rushing so I can be done. I could do some stretching before I resume work, but usually the bad posture in my brain sticks around. All this seems obvious, but it took me awhile to really see what the problem was. It had nothing to do with my painting, but with the energy with which I was starting my sessions. Talk about not setting yourself up for success.

    Another is I don’t like to drink alcoholic beverages and then paint. I used to have a glass of wine/beer and prepare to have a relaxing session, but since I feel so relaxed, I don’t focus and then miss when I should stop, feel discouraged, etc. Same effect with an extra cup of coffee, except I’m too buzzed to concentrate. So unless I’m just doing swatches or playing around, I regard my studio time as a job that I need to be present and alert for.

    Alighting on just these two factors has drastically improved my time painting. Did my skills magically improve, no, but I do experience less of the ‘trash’ paintings because I’m in a better mindset to address progress while painting. Hope that may help someone! 🙂

    Sandra Strait

    I’ve found triggers like that as well, Jill. I tend to take jags where my brain won’t stop working.  I have all sorts of creative ideas, but no matter what I’m working on, I keep thinking about the other things I want to do.  I’ve learned not to paint (or draw) when I get like that.  It’s a good time to start splashing stuff on a page to create backgrounds or cut and glue, but not try anything that takes real focus.

    One of the reasons I’ve never tried to go commercial with my work is that I, also, have to be interested in what I’m doing.  Nothing stifles my muse like working on someone else’s wonderful idea when I have wonderful ideas of my own on the back burner. Every time I’ve tried this, I end up not drawing or painting for months or even years, in some cases.

    Jennifer McLean

    Hi Tom, just came across your question and I so hear you about being a perfectionist. I had just the same problems you have, walking away from good or possibly good art and also getting so frustrated/mad I stopped enjoying what I was doing. I learned two things that helped, I’ll give you the advice in the same order I got them…

    Use your perfectionism. Morph it into something useful. There can be perfectionism in art, use it as an impetus to always FINISH a painting. NEVER walk away, the perfection is in finishing, not in actual perfect-ness. This instantly, like totally INSTANTLY helped me. THE NEXT painting changed completely. When I let this lesson in I never gave up on a painting again because my perfectionistic side ALWAYs wants to WIN so I let it. Perfectionism is in finishing. There, done, it wins, if I always finish. I found it settled down instantly and stopped bothering me, truly instantly. Didn’t mean I didn’t feel frustrated, that gets taken care of in the next lesson.

    This is from one of my closest friends. She’s been painting for 30+ years, she’s an international seller of her art, has stockiest and has three or four degrees in art, teaching art and fine art, all the way up to a Phd. So, she knows her shit. LOL. She says…


    … what she means is EVERY painting has an ugly teenager stage. Sometimes this lasts a few minutes, sometimes hours and hours, until almost the last minute. But remember from rule one, perfectionism is in FINISHING so since you always finish you’ll always see the end and usually it works out to something at least satisfying that you can stop, lol. Actually, I find usually I do get to that “ok, that’s ok, I like it enough not to be disappointed”. In fact, I usually love most 80% of my stuff which surprises me. But then I don’t give up until it’s finished and I know sometimes it’s truly ugly until that tipping point. Keep going, it usually gets there. You’d be surprised. The books I just posted today in my feed was one of those ugly teenagers for HOURS. I finally switched to watercolor pencils after leaving it to dry completely and did a lot of correcting, shading etc. Now I love it and I hated it for about 4 hours. LOL. I nearly gave up at least half a dozen times but I wouldn’t because of rule one.

    Here are a few other helpful lessons from my friend.
    – Nearly everything looks better if it starts with a transparent yellow as it’s glazed base, start there.
    – If you overwork something, glaze over it with that same yellow you started with, I use Schmincke’s pure yellow, it’s nearly a perfect primary yellow, not cool, not warm and it’s totally transparent. If you’re doing something pink, red, purple or deep blue you can also do this same glazing if something looks over worked and starts to look muddy or dull, use Opera pink, I use Daniel Smith’s. I use it fairly saturated as a glaze if something looks dull from just one too many layers as I try to get depth.
    – You should always do 3-5 layers for a painting to get depth. This rounds things, lets the transparentness of paint shine but learn to get what you need in no more than 5-6 layers or you’ll be overworking it. Try for a few less layers next time.

    One last lesson from my own journey.
    – if something’s not working GO BOLD. If I’m gonna ruin it anyway because I’m frustrated and I hate it and I’ve already tried and tried for at least an hour to get what I want and nothing’s working, then get bold with my color, go deeper, go bolder, use more paint, be more adventurous and use more wet in wet and just stop caring if you ruin it. Usually these are the happy accidents where I get “holy cow” how did I do that wonderful thing kind of art.

    Good luck Tom. Remember perfect is in finishing and lean into the discomfort of ugly. It’ll hurt and you’ll be uncomfortable but that’s where you should be to learn and grow. Let that ugly teenage stage push you to find the gorgeous adult at the end of that painting. :o)

    Jill Gustavis

    I like that. Perfectionism is finishing. Thanks for passing along such great tips! I’d heard about underglazing tonal values in yellow, but not glazing overworked areas. I’ll have to try that next time! 🙂

    Sandra Gilbert

    Amazing advice, I like the under painting and glaze advice. I have a tendency to overwork areas, so I am going to try this. Thanks.


    Words of wisdom here. I have adopted the ‘finish everything’ advice recently (mainly from being too mean to throw away paper) and have surprised myself. Things beyond repair transform themselves more often than not. I’m left wondering how many reasonable works of art ended up in the bin before I did learn to finish. How much self-confidence did I throw away with those paintings?

    Susan Cuss

    Wonderful advice, Jennifer, thank you. I’m going to adopt that “perfection is in finishing” attitude. And going bold.

    Jennifer McLean

    Thanks Sandra, I do love opera for that bringing back a seriously overworked piece. Once you hit “dull” it can help bring it back to life, it’s amazing, that neon can really help.

    Jennifer McLean

    Hi susan, that advice so changed everything for me. I used to punish myself with perfectionism but when I learned to slightly tweak that to allowing perfectionism but make it about finishing, it changed my whole attitude. Get around that monkey on your back by just giving him a job. I learned it from Tommy Kane in Sketchbook Skool.

    Pamela Smith

    Lots of great advice in this topic thank you….


    Tom, just started following you in Instagram. Love all your work!

    Annie Unwin

    Good advice, Sandra. I was told never to throw a painting out. If I can’t fix it or resolve my issue with it, I turn the paper over and reuse it. That being said, I have. I have run out of space to keep everything and some just aren’t salvageable. I have also put a 1/2 done painting away for as long as a year or two without going back to them. Some I am able to restore or finish, others not so much. I practice techniques with many of my boo-boos and it helps me learn what can or can’t be done. All I can say is don’t get too caught up in any one painting. Just keep going and learn from your mistakes. Mistakes and fixes are excellent learning tools.

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