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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to Become a Better Painter...a Visual Example

'Under the Palms'           5x7          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
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It took a physical example but I think I made my point.  My students all work hard at painting. They come to class and do homework.  They buy all the best pastels and organize them for easy use. They use all the best papers and are eager to try anything to make better paintings.  

But every once in awhile I hear the moans and groans about slow progress. We all want to be better painters and we want it to happen quickly.  But it doesn't work that way. It takes time and lots of paintings and many many duds. It is how we learn.  We know this and yet we can't help feeling defeated when we see the work of more experienced artists. 

Will we ever get better? Will it ever come with ease?  Will hard work really pay off?

The answer is a resounding YES!  Allow me to share my dud with you. Today I decided to take out a box of my old paintings.  Some of the little 5x7 daily paintings I did when I was first learning to paint.  They weren't very good. In fact some were downright awful!  But in looking at them I could immediately see what I did wrong and what I could have done better.  I had really come a long way and there was nothing quite like a visual reminder to show the progress I have made.

Take this palm tree painting ......

'Under the Palms'  original painting done in 2008
I painted this palm tree around 2008 after I had been painting for about 3 years. It wasn't a total dud and at the time I liked it.  But looking at it today I could see some things that I would change. So for fun I decided to rework the tree for my class.  I simplified the palm fronds and used the sky to carve out the leaves.  I also added orange and peach to the sunlit trunk rather than the light color I had used on the original. This gave more of a feeling of sunlight.....all things I have learned and practiced. (see the reworked painting at the top of the page)

This visual example is a reminder that it is rare for anyone to come out of the gate painting like a master. It takes time and hard work. I paint every day because I want to be the best artist I can be and I know that this will change as I continue to learn and grow.  When you are feeling frustrated with your progress or lack thereof just remind yourself that it will come with time!

I will leave you with a real dud. The painting below was done in my first year of painting. It makes me happy to see that I have indeed made progress.

TIP: Don't be so quick to throw away all of your duds.  Try to save some from each year so you can look back and them and be encouraged....and you just might have learned how to make them better!

a 5x7 pastel done my first year of painting 2005


Pattie Wall said...

Karen you are absolutely right - been thinking myself of tossing my OLD paintings - but then I thought about painting over with gesso (on the oil paintings) and painting something else. But pastels, I have drawer fulls - and I like the idea of simplifying and adding a little punch of color if it warrants it..I have a few in mind, that were very frustrating at the time. Gonna do it!

Joni said...

Its funny cause last week i actually pulled out some of my old pastel paintings from when i first started and they are TERRIBLE! :) I thought I might rework some so they are on my to do list... Im looking forward to seeing if I can fix any of them up or just toss them out.

Susan Williamson said...

So true and so brave! I am so ashamed of my duds that I rip them up before throwing in the trash.

Anonymous said...

great example....and i agree with you, keep those old 'duds' and give yourself a bit pat on the back for the improvement they demonstrate. i've only been painting with pastels for about a year, and i almost threw out the first one i did...but luckily i thought about how it might help get perspective! and it did, i can see such improvement so it gives me hope that with more painting i could get even better !

cheers, Linda