The Painting From Hell

I felt like a rock star yesterday I got so much done.  I got up early & got started on a new painting after finishing my usual check email/put out immediate fires routine.  I took the dogs for a good long walk on the trails, stopped for groceries on the way home (which is a feat in & of itself because I *loathe* grocery shopping), cooked dinner for my boys AND cleaned the kitchen afterwards, then went back to painting.  And finished it!  When I finally settled in on the couch around midnight for some well deserved TV time, I was beaming.

This probably doesn’t sound like much to a lot of you; my sisters, for example, are the type A super productive sorts who seem to get more accomplished before lunch than I can manage all week.  While wearing heels, no less.  But if you’ve followed my tweets over the last couple of weeks, you’ve no doubt seen me complaining about The Painting From Hell that I just. can’t. finish.

I’ve been so consumed with trying to get this thing right finished that I’ve been unable to focus on anything else.  John knocking on the door of my studio/our bedroom to tell me that dinner was ready?  Disruption.  If I lived alone I would’ve gone the whole week eating cereal morning, noon & night.  Stopping to sleep because my eyes were burning & I really needed a break felt like defeat.  It’s safe to say I’m not fun to live with!

The problem with The Painting From Hell is that it’s *almost* done.  I love the background, I got the fog just right, I did a gazillion layers on the girl’s eyes and I think they’re the best I’ve ever painted.  I LOVE this painting in so many ways.  And because I do love it and I wanted to make it just perfect, I kept fiddling with the shadows on her face, trying to get more highlights on her round apple cheeks.  Then it was too dark.  Then not blended enough.  Now the rosy blush wasn’t as visible.  Have to add that back in again.  Layer after layer, the painting is looking worse, not better.

It didn’t seem to matter what I tried (and I did try it all, including sanding the paint right down, but then I lost the texture of the canvas & the whole thing looked uneven) – it couldn’t be fixed.  I don’t even want to think about the number of hours I spent painting, then wiping paint off, then adding more, then taking off.  Seriously – this painting is from hell.

Why am I telling you this?  Because very few artists do.

We all screw up.  If we’re lucky, these accidents end up taking a piece in a new direction that works.  Sometimes we’re not so lucky.  Sometimes an artist IS able to save the piece, but it means his original vision for the work has had to change.  And unless he says so, there’s no way of knowing that the end result isn’t exactly what he wanted.

I am going to save The Painting From Hell by covering up her painstakingly painted nose, lips and one good cheek (along with the bad one) with a Halloween-y mask.  It fits for the painting and since the problem (now) is the lack of canvas texture, the smoothness actually lends itself to the plastic of the mask.  I easily could have (and who knows…probably should have) just posted the painting once it’s finished and not said a word.  But I know I’m not the only person facing challenges like these.  And in case you’ve forgotten, you’re not alone!

Every mistake is an opportunity for growth, a chance to learn a better way.  My lesson?  Quit while you’re ahead.  🙂

1 thought on “The Painting From Hell”

  1. bravo for blogging the dark side of making art! the hardest projects always seem like they’ll never end, and always end up being the best. good luck!

    and i think you gave me this advice: step away from the canvas for a bit. 🙂

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