Overcoming the Crisis in Painting

DSC_0027So let’s say you’re painting along making some very satisfying strokes . . . the composition seems pretty good, the colors are nice, etc.

Then . . . the middle of the painting happens.

It’s what I call my “crisis,”

When I hit the crisis I become doubtful, despondent and very negative about my burgeoning baby.

I have thoughts like “You’re not such a good artist–look what you did.  Nobody will buy this. This piece is hopeless. You don’t know how to fix this.”

I know this is kind of dramatic,  but all you creators out there  probably know what I mean–whether your creating is crafting, painting, photography, acting, dancing, singing,writing, drawing, teaching, cooking, etc.  We’re sensitive people after all.

So when you and I hit the inevitable crisis–the word I like is overcoming.  Isn’t that a beautiful word!?!

And the first principle of overcoming is normalizing:

  1. “Normalize” the crisis for yourself–realize that all but the most singularly perfect experience of creating will generate some sort of crisis that needs resolution.
  2. Take a big break, step back from the painting–literally– and look at it from a greater distance, squint your eyes to look at it.  Turn it upside down. Take it to another part of the room.
  3. During this break, sit down if you have been standing, have something to eat and drink.  Relax and do something else for a little while.  I watch a little mindless TV–some HGTV or the cooking channel or some politicians doing some very interesting, silly, and funny things. Because I paint in the kitchen where I have all my creature comforts–my Big Chair, my little TV, the frig, and lots of windows wrapped around for sun shining in and bird watching, I can get really comfortable and cozy and relaxed for my break and still peek at my painting–which I have turned around so I can see it from my Big Chair.
  4. After this break– around 30 to 45 minutes, or an hour if my back is tired and I needed my little heating thingy that I warmed up in the microwave, I get an IDEA of what the painting needs.  Most of the time this happens. This is very good!!!
  5. I get back to painting with my new insights with joy and fervor.
  6. If I don’t get any new insights I know I need to leave this painting and work on another one–finishing, signing, drawing, beginning–something different because I realize that I’m at a point that doing more now will produce less– or make a mess!
  7.  Sometimes it’s good just to turn in for the day and sleep on it.   I’ve left paintings unresolved for months or even years waiting for the inspired solution.  😉
  8. So what to do with a painting that you have completely given up on?

Some artists paint over them.  A “failed painting” can make a marvelous underpainting for your next masterpiece.

Some artists destroy them so as not to be haunted by the inevitable “you’re not such a good artist–look at me (painting)–look what you did.  Nobody will buy this.  You’re no good.”

I have done both.  I read early in my painting career  about the idea of destroying “bad” ones.  I liked that a lot then especially when painting with watercolor–a rather unforgiving medium.

Now I am experimenting with painting over paintings that don’t quite please me–easier to do with acrylics.

I’ll end with an Andy Warhol quote that I like:

Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art.

BTW, I love Andy Warhol. I have a reproduction of his pink cow on a bright yellow background hanging in my house.  😉

Author: Margaret Huntley Harrison

I’m a painter using my gifts to transform the seemingly ordinary into the beautiful and extraordinary. What I love more than anything is tracking down, creating, and spreading the beauty in our amazing world! And I LOVE helping you find and spread your beauty into your home, your family and your world. Art for sale: fineartamerica.com Margaret Huntley Harrison

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