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Saturday, March 21, 2015

When a Painting is a Struggle...Some Advice

'It's a Sign of Spring'               8x10              pastel               ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $145
I should have known better. The painting began with a fight. I was using an old piece of Pastelmat paper that had some indentations. As soon as I put down my first layer I could see the marks. Interesting marks but they had nothing to do with my concept for the painting.  I kept going. It was a struggle and it went downhill quickly.

My underpainting layer. You can see the indentation marks on the paper
 I began with an idea for the painting. I wanted to paint the dirt road leading back into the distant trees. It was an early spring landscape but my concept was about the road and not really the hints of spring in my reference photo.  Ultimately  that was the cause of my struggle.

My reference photo and initial drawing. It is all about the road!
The road wouldn't cooperate. It wasn't in a good place. I tried to move it. I didn't like my foliage shapes. They kept growing. I kept cutting them back. I threw everything I had at the painting. It got too busy and the road disappeared. I wiped it off and tried again. The bushes grew again. I was very very close to giving up. I didn't want the painting to win. But that was exactly my problem. I was fighting the painting.

My painting wanted to go in a different direction. I wasn't listening. I was frustrated and I wasn't having fun. And then I had a thought. What if I listened to the painting and let it go where it wanted? This time I let the bushes grow. The painting became about them...the little hint of Spring became a full blown stand of Forsythia in bloom. That is what it wanted to be all along.

"I begin with an idea, but as I work, the picture takes over. Then there is the struggle between the idea I preconceived... and the picture that fights for its own life." George Baselitz

The next time you are in a struggle with a painting. Listen carefully to what it may be telling you. You never know what might happen if you pay attention!


Marsha Savage said...

Wonderfully said, Karen. So many times, I have to let it go where it wants... no matter my concept. It is just such a good thing, when you talk to your students about how to handle the struggle of painting something. They are not always easy, and many times students (and the public) think everything we conceive comes out!

Susan E. J. White said...

This painting is lovely and mysterious. Thank you for taking the time and energy to share your work and words.

Anonymous said...

I had this hapoen recently and i just let go right away, since I was really just practicing technique anyway. It turned out prettier than I thought it would. But wow, I'm so glad you didn't give up on this; I'm not sure I would recognize it as one if your paintings because the style is different, but it is so gorgeous!

Feliz David said...

I am very much inspired with your beautiful pastel paintings. .Can I use the watercolor pad(200gsm) for pastels? Or, is there a specific paper for pastel painting?. .

Thank you, God bless you!

Karen said...

Thank you all!!!
Felix you can use watercolor paper but it doesnt have any tooth to hold many layers of pastel. There are many papers that are used for pastels. I will be doing a video post next week all about paper!

Sunny Avocado said...

I love this post! So true! Why couldn't you have told me that a few years ago? ;)