Don’t do It!

If you’re an artist, you probably have a large stack of paintings that don’t measure up to your standards.  The longer you paint, the more this becomes a difficult thing to deal with.  I learn something from every painting I do and my skills continue to grow accordingly.  As artists, we are the keepers of our creative destiny and get to decide what to keep and what to toss.

  • I’ve read about painters that save all of their “failed” artwork and use it to create a bonfire every few years because the paintings don’t live up the artist’s own quality guidelines and they feel that this would degrade the scope of their over-all work.
  • I know artists who never sell their work because they feel that a piece of their soul is tied up in the piece.
  • Sometimes I’m just gobsmacked when a piece of art I really didn’t like sells quickly, and the prints from that painting continue to sell, consistently.  Over time, I’ve learned that what I like and what someone else likes won’t necessarily be the same thing.  Over that, I still shake my head sometimes, and that brings me to my next point.
  • Someone somewhere is going to love that painting that I just can’t stand.  Every painting exists as part of my body of work, as part of my artistic journey.  I learn at least one thing from every painting that I create.  I’ve only destroyed one painting, and I regret it.  It wasn’t finished, and at that time, I didn’t think I could do anything with it.  I had fallen in love with a stone wall in Kainaliu and taken a picture to paint just before an earthquake took it down, and here it is.  This photo is the only proof that this painting ever existed.

And, I regret it.  This was very early painting days for me.  I put a lot of time into this painting.  I outlined each individual rock in black.  What did I learn from this painting?  So much.

  1. That I could lose myself in my work
  2. Never lose track of the big picture
  3. Paint things that move you
  4. Rocks are never entirely one color
  5. Get the entire canvas covered with paint before you make any major decisions about a painting.
  6. Don’t outline rocks in black!
  7. Things are never as bad as you think they are

Now, I could have done so much with this painting and turn it into something spectacular.  I may paint it again someday because I still love the wall.

So tell me.  If you’re an artist, what do you do with your “failed” or what you consider sub-par paintings?


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