Somewhere I found a browser add-on that includes a breath-taking picture, a place to list my to-do’s for the day, and a memorable quote. I don’t know what the name of the program is, but I like the add-on. Sometimes it’s spot on with its inspiring words, like these that I read one day:
“Don’t bury your failures. Let them inspire you.”
On that particular day, I needed those words. I’d been wrapped up in an art disaster for more than a week. I finally chalked it all up to a bad experience and was ready to see what I could learn from it.
Here is my “Disaster at Sea” — and the title refers not to any shipwreck or storm, but to my frustrating attempts at painting a rocky shoreline.
The surprising thing is that the painting started off on a good note. It’s another practice piece, an opportunity for me to work on creating rocks and ocean waves. When I first blocked in the rocks, I thought it might be smooth sailing ahead.
Somehow, though, things didn’t go well. I wiped almost everything away and started over.
In fact, over the course of a week I spent more time wiping paint away than I did putting it on. I couldn’t get the shape of the rocks right, or if I got the shapes right, I couldn’t get the lights and shadows right. At one point I had the rocks looking reasonably similar to rocks, but then my swirling ocean water ruined it all again.
I wiped away. I re-drew. I blocked colors in again. Over and over. And over and over. It became a frustrating challenge. No matter how long it took or how many times I had to re-do this seascape, I was going to finish it, so there!
At last, after several more “wipe-it-away-and-try-again” moments, I decided to simply put paint on the canvas again — any which way — and call it done. At some future date, I’ll grab my big palette knife and scrape the scene away. I’ll cover it all with a solid color paint and eventually re-use the canvas.
Isn’t that burying my failure? Yes, it is, and I’ll be glad to do it because I think I’ve learned all I can from it.
I’ve learned that persistence is good — up to a point. Especially with practice pieces, I think we can push too hard, too long, and find ourselves at that point known as diminishing returns. Quite simply, the longer I kept at it, the worse it became.
There are other things I’ve learned from this painting, as well. I’ve had opportunities to mix and re-mix colors for the skies, colors for ocean waves, colors for seafoam crashing over rocks. Yes, of course, I’ve had practice mixing colors for rocks, too.
In the time I spent working on this disastrous painting, I used many different brushes — from tiny 00 detail brushes to large flats. I got a lot of drawing practice too, as I re-drew those rocks, trying to create the right shapes.
Most of all, I’ve learned how much more practice I need on values. I found myself completely befuddled with lights and shadows on the rocks. I will definitely be devoting a lot of practice time to this area.
I won’t let this disaster get me down, though. Much like my struggles with painting an old barn, I can only say that I’m glad it’s over. The sea has wrought its havoc and claimed another victim.
Disasters do happen. When they do, we just move on.