"Closer to Winter," Oil on Canvas, 20x20inches, ©Lynn Goldstein
Most people don't realize how difficult this making art business can be. To let you inside, here's a blow-by-blow account of a recent challenging painting experience I have been slamming my head against.
First of all, let me say that I love what I do. I am particularly fortunate to be able to make things for emotional uplift and (sometimes) financial gain. That said, not all paintings are created equally. Some, though very rare, are what I refer to as "hole-in-one" paintings. This description is derived from my years of playing golf. When someone gets a hole-in-one it appears effortless. Those paintings bearing that description just seem to spring forth from some internal well of talent that goes into hiding as quickly as it appears. In other words, they are rare.
Most recently, I have been painting feverishly in anticipation of a solo exhibition that I will be having in June (one of the paintings to be included is above). The work has been going smoothly. No hole-in-one paintings, but work with a minimum of angst attached to the experience. Not so for the most recent piece.
Value sketch of painting before my start
I started the painting as I almost always do. I went for a hike in the woods near my home. The day was beautiful, unseasonably warm, and pleasant. I took a multitude of resource photographs, excited at the prospect of revisiting the scenes in my work. After careful selection of the photograph, I made a value sketch (above). A value sketch is simply a black and white version of what I see. I can understand the composition, and better visualize how I am going to make the painting.
Trouble started to rear its ugly head right away, but I didn't see it coming. You see, I didn't pay enough attention to my value sketch, instead getting tied up with I don't even know what. I continued painting, thinking with each step along the way that I had finally found the solution to reel me back into comfortable territory. Didn't happen.
What would you do in a situation like that? I'll tell you what I did, and maybe you can use some of the the same techniques when you run into what appears to be failure.
1. I ripped the offending canvas off my easel and started two other oil paintings by staining the surfaces of two canvases, and for good measure, started an abstract pastel painting.
Here's the oil underpainting to start another painting. An artist's version of getting back on the horse after being thrown, with the added benefit of no blunt force injuries.
2. To add more salve to my wounds, I hi-tailed it home and went for a walk in the woods before the predicted cold front blew into town. Once I was among my trees, I could decompress and enjoy the rest of my day, and come into the studio the next day with a fresh perspective.
By using acetate over the painting, I can visualize whether a change will enhance or harm the final piece.
3. To see if what I had been envisioning as a correction would work, I put acetate over my painting. This is a great tool for making changes without commitment. I think that this change will work. It opens up the composition and helps lead the viewer into the picture plane. That said, this painting is still in time out in the corner of my studio where it will remain indefinitely while I work on other pieces that don't require multiple trips to a psychologist to improve!
I hope these ideas give you fuel for thought when you smack up against a failure. Please share your antidotes for trouble in the comments below. Solutions are always nice to have!