We’ve all been there. You know, that point in a painting where you say, “this sucks.” You realize that it is not going the way you envisioned and it is quickly turning into something that you will gladly coat with gesso so you can start over with a new painting.
I always think the same thing. How did I get here? I planned ahead and had excellent reference material. I blocked in my colors and paid attention to the lights and darks. I kept checking the composition as I slowly started to fill it in and develop the details. Then, out of nowhere, I realize that I hate this mess of color in front of me.
Don’t get me wrong. There is something extremely liberating about grabbing out my bucket of gesso and covering over a painting. I simply chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. I never keep unsucesssful paintings around.
But instead of throwing in the towel so easily, I have a few ideas to get you to change your mind about your painting.
Tip #1: Grab your palette knife and scrape off as much paint as you can. You will still have the general shapes and colors, but you no longer have the piles of paint that were built up as you struggled and struggled to get a certain area perfect. You might be surprised how a thinned out canvas can reinspire you to go at it again.
Tip #2: Turn your painting upside down. Many artists do that periodically anyway in order to check composition, color arrangement, and shape design. But it also helps at times to pull you out of a funk with a painting.
Tip #3: Set it aside. Just put it away while you work on other paintings for a few months. Maybe you just need a break and will get back in the mood. Sometimes I think I simply have lost the mood I had when I envisioned the painting and I have to wait until I get it back in order to continue.
Tip #4: This is the most fun tip of all. I have at times given up on a painting, when I say, “oh what the hell.” I grab a large brush and just do extemely bold brush strokes. If it doesn’t turn out, I was scrapping it anyway. Check out “Indian Creek Canal – Huntsville.” This was actually a painting that I gave up on after blocking in the color. It sat in my studio, unfinished, for almost a year. One day I came up with the idea to paint with only large vertical and horizontal brush strokes. The result was something totally unexpected…and I loved it.
So the next time you are about to shove your palette knife through the center of you canvas, just take a minute and try one of my tips. You never know what will come out of it. Besides, you have nothing to lose.