Thursday, May 15, 2014

Three Things to Try When Your Painting isn't Cooperating

'Knee Deep in Poppies'            8x10           pastel          ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $125
 Sometimes things don't go as planned. Paintings are often this way.  You start out with a plan or a concept for the painting. Sometimes the painting has a mind of it's own and quickly changes course.  This can be a good thing if you catch it in time and readjust your sails.  Go with the flow and see what happens.

Sometimes the chosen course is not a good one. The concept just doesn't work. What can we do with a painting gone astray? I usually do one of three things.

The painting began with an oil stain underpainting with my concept an intimate crop
of a meadow filled with poppies. I didn't like it. 


The idea I wanted for the painting was to do an intimate crop of a poppy field. It wasn't working. It seemed like a jumble of colors with no focus. I tried scraping and dusting and adding more grasses but the more I added the worse it became. (That is often the case) So I did some of my favorite salvage tricks and ended up with a painting that had a different concept but which pleased me more.


1. The first thing I did was wipe the painting down. I just took my finger and blended everything. I didn't want to remove a lot of pastel but I wanted to calm some of the busyness I had created.  Now I could look at the big shapes and figure out how to make it more interesting.


2. The second thing I did was spray the painting with workable fixative.   I had filled up a lot of the tooth of the paper already so in order to give me more tooth to work with I decided to spray it. In this case I was not careful with my spray application on purpose. I wanted drips and dribbles.
Now I am left with basically a toned surface with hints of poppies. I decided it need to have some depth and air. So I put in some distant trees and sky. Ahhhh much better! (see photo at top for the finished painting)

3. Usually wiping down a painting or spraying it with fixative is enough to give me a chance to reassess my concept and come up with a new plan. What is the third thing I try? Some may say that is to Throw the painting in the trash.  That works. Remove the failed painting and move on. I am usually too stubborn to do that. I don't like a painting to get the best of me but it is a good option if it allows you to get back to the easel with a fresh start!

5 comments:

CAROL HOPPER -- A PAINTER'S JOURNAL said...

Oh my goodness....comforting to know even the pros have difficulty at times. I love how you reworked this!

Sherry Schmidt said...

Thanks Karen. Interesting to see how such a beautiful piece started with you not liking it so much.

Brenda Pinnick said...

I read this in Segei Bongart's book,
" when you don't know what to do next, simplify".
I've been using this advice lately and am amazed how it has helped me save a wayward painting!

Thanks for all your great advice, Karen!

Anna Lisa Leal said...

Thanks for sharing this! So timely after a weekend of challenging painting! Good to know even the pros deal with this!

Karen said...

Hooray, it isn't just me!! Thank you so much for sharing!