I think artists on the whole are an optimistic breed. I mean it is the belief than we can do something greater than all that has come before, that keeps us creating. Something better, more complex, more visually inspiring, more creatively challenging, and on the whole, more brilliant than ever before. Oddly enough, the time I find it most difficult to create, is not after a failure. But after I do a really nice piece. Something that when I look at it, I think “Damn, that really is pretty good. How am I gonna top that?” What’s the answer? Optimism. Of course I will do something better next time. (if not then, perhaps the time after that.)
– Oil Pastel 18 x 29
Copyright by Mona Majorowicz
Occasionally, it is all about the timing
Making Waves is a painting that was a long time coming. From start to completion, 1 1/2 years elapsed. This was the first painting that I ever went back to finish, after I gave up on it. Generally, I either complete the painting when I start it, or I toss it. I don’t usually hold onto failed paintings. Personally, I think it is hard to move forward, when you are surrounded by unfinished or failed works. I didn’t consider this tiger painting a failure as such. I just couldn’t quite make it work.
I started it as a smaller piece, and even as I worked it, I knew it was too small to get the effect I wanted. So I redrew it larger and began again. That in itself is a rarity. Even after the new beginning, I struggled with it. I was still early in practice with the oil pastels and I think it was too ambitious a painting, for where I was technically at the time. After much effort, I gave up.
My painting time is limited. So I don’t spend loads of time trying to resurrect a failing piece. I need to move on and keep creating. So I put the tiger aside. (Actually, I put it in the back room, on it’s side, in the dark . . . to be exact.) I couldn’t quite bring myself to toss it. I liked my concept. I liked my composition. I liked that it was something besides a horse, (which it seems I paint more and more of these days.) But I lacked the confidence and skill to bring it to my vision. To get it out of my head and onto the board, the way it should be.
Jump a year and some odd months in the future
I had just finished working on a small detailed piece and I desperately wanted to work on something larger, with expansive strokes. So I pulled out my tiger. I thought “It doesn’t matter if I ruin him, he is pretty much garbage anyway.” I reworked him completely. I still struggled with the water. Primarily because my zoo reference photos didn’t provide an accurate representation of water movement. I played with water motion in the bath tub for several nights, and eventually completed the painting to my satisfaction.
Note: To my satisfaction, means he is good enough to keep, frame and sell. It doesn’t mean that I think that he’s perfect. In fact, whenever I look at any completed painting, for a long time afterward, I see things that I “should” have done. Darken here, brighten there. But learning when to let go, is a complex enough subject, that it deserves its own post.
Moral of the story.
Sometimes it is best to toss out a painting that you are agonizing over. But on rare occasion, you might be able to “save” it. In my case I had to wait until my skill level matched my vision. The trick is learning when to do one or the other. And remember a failed painting does not equate with failing as an artist. I learn far more from my mistakes and challenges, than I do from easy success.
Prints are available of Making Waves. Just click on the image or the title below the image to get more information.
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