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Thursday, August 13, 2015

How to Deal with Unfinished Paintings

'Back to the Island'             11x14            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
We all have a few. I call them UFOs. Unfinished Objects. Paintings that were started but never finished. Maybe we got frustrated. Maybe we were just bored or something else was more inspiring. Whatever the reason the UFOs ended up in a pile somewhere. After awhile they need to be dealt with. They are taking up valuable space. Do we finish them or recycle the paper?

I am in the midst of a studio clean up. I am gearing up for fall classes and need to get organized. I was intrigued to discover a pile of UFOs still attached to their foamcore backing board. Some were underpaintings waiting for pastel. Some were failed paintings that I chose to put aside. Some were unfinished demos. Why did I save them?

A pile of UFO's 
 After spending time hidden in a pile these UFOs all had great potential. Time away from them has allowed me to grow as an artist and discover the solutions that these paintings needed.

An unfinished and forgotten demo
For today's painting I chose one of the unfinished demos. It really didn't need much work. It just lacked some spice. I put it up on my easel and carefully planned my attack. The painting was still attached to the original board along with the value thumbnail and some notes I had written about how I wanted to finish the painting. Using these notes as my cue I made the following adjustments:

  • I added more sky holes and finished the trees.
  • I added a peachy pink to the horizon line
  • I pushed back a layer of distant trees by scumbling some blue pastel
  • I added a few well thought out blades of grass.
  • I added a thin pink one to suggest a distant creek
Tip: Start your own UFO pile. Don't throw away unfinished paintings. Store them flat and out of sight. Put them in a box under a bed if you are short on space. Let them sit for awhile. When you are looking for a painting idea....revisit these UFOs and choose one to work on. You will undoubtably have new ideas and insight which you will apply to the painting. It is a great learning experience. 

I know there are paintings that you just need to throw away....but if you are at all on the fence do yourself a favor and put them in your UFO pile. You will learn from them when the time is right!


Laura Kirste Campbell said...

I love this painting! And I really appreciate your encouragement to artists in the form of your great tips and techniques! Thank you! I appreciate learning of your changes to this painting, which were the perfect finishing touches, like adding jewlery to an attire. Lovely sparkle!

robertsloan2art said...

Wonderful painting! This process is SO true! Whenever I find UFO's inevitably I can see a lot easier what it needs to improve it. Pastel is so reworkable that if I did find an exception I'd just store it again till I found the solution on the next round.

Love all the changes, thanks for showing before and after. The painting is so powerful!