Let me show you my best painting secret!
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There is no point in continuing with a flawed painting. Life is too short. Learn your lessons and move on, wiser and stronger. (anon)
Art is never finished, only abandoned. (Leonardo da Vinci)
A life spent chasing other people's approval is a life spent on a pointless roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, without ever knowing yourself. (Rinatta Paries)
The old joke is that there are two people necessary to complete a painting. The artist to paint it and someone to drag the artist away when the painting is done. Richard Schmid, the famous American artist jokes in his book, Alla Prima, about receiving gentle threats from his loved ones should he not stop on a particular painting for risk of ruining it. There are other reasons to quit too. Not least of which is that the painting is already ruined or even that it had not a chance from the get go. Recognising the critical moment is the elusive key.
"Do not consider your painting finished unless it is exactly what you want to see. If you feel that you are not skilled enough to do that, take the time and trouble to learn what it is you need to know to do it" says Schmid. These are tough words from the master artist. A reminder to us all that the path to accomplished painting is a long one.
When I am facing a slump in my painting it can be difficult to pull myself out of it if I dwell on the learning that still lies ahead. So I find it best to take a break and usually by the next day a solution to the problem shows itself. There is always a solution if you keep your mind open to this idea.
Even though there is a solution this does not necessarily mean I can plough on with a flawed painting. The solution may require scraping the whole thing down and starting over. If that is what it takes then I do not hesitate. If the previous attempts have dried and scraping is not an option then out the painting goes. Learn from it and move on. These dogs are not pets - they must be released!
The typical painting killers are:
No concept - this means there was no idea of what the artist wanted to achieve. What do you want to say about your subject? If your concept is clear you will have an idea of what the focus area of the painting is. Concentrate on the focus area and leave the rest of the painting loose. Nothing can be achieved by rendering the painting in detail from the canvas's edge to edge.
Not enough preparation - for the beginner this can include fundamentals like notan sketch, outline drawings and value studies. All these missed steps lead to poor composition, weak colour and aimless pushing of paint around the canvas.
Too uptight - once the groundwork is done then crack on and paint quickly and with purpose. Wet-into-wet still works best. When we let a painting dry over a week or so it is difficult to get back into it. It is like starting all over again and much changes in the interval. Suddenly the spark of life has left the painting.
Overwork - you have made a good start but now you have gone too far. The details are too rendered and the life has given way to overworked stodge. This is common through all painting levels so do not beat yourself up about it. Be aware of the moment when you look at your work and think Wow! that is looking great! It is at that moment when you must consider whether there is anything more to say. Can adding something now actually add meaning to the painting? If not then stop. If in doubt - sleep on it. Next morning the solution may simply be to sign the painting.
The above thoughts are not all the issues. What are your painting killers and solutions? When do you know it is time to stop?