In the last 2 weeks I have lost 3 good paintings.

I didn’t misplace them. I painted over them.

I didn’t do it on purpose, of course. I thought I was developing each one from interesting idea into finished piece. But in each case, my additional work made the painting worse and my subsequent attempts to fix the issue just exacerbated the problem.

In one of the 3 cases, I actually lost a sale because someone loved the initial painting I posted online and wanted to buy it. But by that time, I had made “improvements” and the painting they loved was gone.

That was this small painting:

It had freshness and vitality at this stage. But an hour later, all that was lost.

That’ll teach you, I told myself, when the sale fell through.

But it didn’t.

Next came this painting:

I loved the colours and the sweeping lines of this one, but I just knew it could be better. So I kept painting and I lost it. It just got worse and worse and eventually,  I decided to paint over the canvas with white and start again.

RIP, blue and pink hills!

Next, I decided to try and and capture the beauty of my local landscape on a wet, grey day. It rains a lot here and we can go for days without seeing the sun, but there is a particular beauty and drama in our ever-shifting combinations of grey and green.

On the same canvas as my long-lost blue and pink painting, I painted this.

That’s a terrible photo taken in bad light but sadly it’s the only one I have because there were things I didn’t like about the painting and so I kept working until it lost all its life and energy.

I don’t always do this. Often I stop at the right time, but on these 3 occasions I didn’t.

Thinking back, I can see that I didn’t listen to the paintings. I get this feeling when my painting is going well – it’s a deep happiness that bubbles up inside. “Yes,” this voice says, “you’ve got something!” When I look at a painting at this stage, it gives me pleasure.The feeling that I intended to portray is there on the canvas. (Paul Klee once said something like “a painting is finished when it looks back at you.” I know exactly what he meant.)

But there’s always this little voice telling me I need to fix this or that little thing to make it ‘perfect.’ And the joy of the process at this point is infectious – I want to keep feeling that way, so I keep painting.

Unfortunately, the imperfections often turn out to be exactly what the painting needs. Fix them, and I’ve lost the magic.

So I need to heed Paul Klee’s advice and stop when my painting first looks back at me. Just put it aside, imperfections and all, and start another one.

It’s been a difficult lesson to learn – I miss these 3 paintings! – and I still wonder if I will get it right next time. I’ll keep you posted.

4 Comments

  1. Philippa Granwal
    November 20, 2017

    This really speaks to me! You are certainly not alone here. Maybe you can make some kind of rule for yourself about not being allowed to touch the work for a week or something to give you distance so you can really see it. Take a photo at the point you leave the work to “rest” and maybe try out some ideas on that rather than on the original. I am trying to follow this procedure myself. It’s got some downsides – loss of excitement – but I’m hoping it will stop me ruining the reasonable stuff. Another ploy is to have more than one work on the go so that you can “fiddle” on a less precious work while observing and thinking about the one you love.

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      November 20, 2017

      I do think having more than one painting on the go would help. And also having some of them be ‘throwaway’ paintings … ones that I tell myself don’t matter. But will I believe myself? Probably not. LOL.

      Reply
      • Kristy Brenner
        November 21, 2017

        You’ve been on quite a journey — personally and artistically —and it looks like you’re still moving forward, reflecting, and finding your way. Much respect for your courage and resilience.

        Reply
  2. Julie Kai Barreto
    November 21, 2017

    I would love to see the afters that you are so hard on, and compare for myself (at least to the extent a photo can compare with an original).

    Reply

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