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Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Do You Do When a Painting Goes Bad?

'For the Bees' 3.5 x 2.5" pastel ©Karen Margulis
'Believe' 2.5 x 3.5" pastel ©Karen Margulis
Not every painting comes easy. In fact most of the time it is a struggle to end up with a painting that you are happy with. That is part of the process. I love the times when I am completely in the zone and a painting appears as if it were a magic trick. But I have also come to love the struggles. I learn the most when I have to work at a painting. It can be frustrating but I am stubborn and I rarely give up on a painting. I never throw a painting away. If I can't fix it or not sure what to do....I put it in a pile. One of my students calls these UFO's (unfinished objects) Sometimes I'll come back to them but often I will just end up reusing the paper.

Yesterday was a struggle. I worked on a small 6x6 painting of a bumblebee for 3 hours. For those of you who know me....this is a loooong time. I couldn't get the shape of the bee to look right. It was a close-up and he was in a strange angle. So I brushed him off and tried again...and again....I brushed that bee off 5 times. I was close to throwing it out but I reminded myself that I shouldn't give up. What could I do differently? I decided to make the painting into a daisy. I can paint those. I hated the daisy. So with nothing to lose I quickly painted a few little bees and cropped them into two small paintings. These bees made me smile. I'm glad I didn't give up.
  • Never give up or get frustrated when a painting isn't going your way. Turn it into a game. What could you do differently? You have nothing to lose!
  • Don't be afraid to brush or wipe the offending areas (even if that means the whole thing)
  • Try not to make your work too precious or you will be hesitant to make changes.
  • Sometimes it helps to get drastic...spray some workable fixative,do a wash, change the subject.
  • When all else fails consider cropping out the good parts.
  • I also learned that Pastelmat paper can take a lot of abuse!
What do you do when a painting isn't working?


Unknown said...

Good tips! I was just struggling today at trying to resurrect a painting and left it. It may meet the great bucket of gesso later.

Mariela said...

Interesting post!
I usually cut it to make smaller paintings as you did here or I paint the hole surface with a glaze of a neutral color, so I have an interesting unerpaint for a new one...
You gave me a good idea for an artical in my courses blog... thank you!!

Karen said...

Thanks Tina! Good luck with the painting! I appreciate the comment :)

Karen said...

Thanks Mariela. I intend to write a more expanded version of this post but it was timely since I had such a struggle yesterday!

Elvirah said...

I used to paint when i was very little, but i have n't practiced it well. So i am not a painter to put my ideas here if a painting goes wrong. But i can admire your painting and its wonderfully made. I like the way you have painted bumblebees.

Karen said...

Thank you Elvirah! I'm glad you enjoyed seeing my process and reading about how I paint. I appreciate you visiting my blog and hope you will come again! said...

Just like people, there are ugly bumblebees and handsome ones. Get better models? No, persevere as you did. I take my paintings-in-progress to the gesso dip.

Karen said...

I think you are right Marilyn, It was an ugly bumblebee to start with! Thanks for the comment!