Bits and Pieces

Learning new things always requires lots of practice, and it always involves lots of hits and misses. For me, that’s especially true now as I move toward a more impressionistic style of landscape painting.

When I first began my art journey, I made a point of finding something good in everything I tried — whether it was a graphite drawing, a watercolor, a pastel painting, or any other medium I was learning. Back then, of course, I didn’t expect much of myself. Finding anything good in a drawing or painting made me happy and helped me believe that I could learn more.

Now, though, it’s sometimes more difficult for me to appreciate what’s good in an otherwise awful painting. I do have higher expectations now, and I am disappointed when paintings fall short of my hopes.

Earlier today I worked on glazing and scumbling techniques, using a failed painting for my practice canvas. It was a scene of a country churchyard complete with a tall bell tower. You know I don’t do buildings. I’m working on them — quite diligently. I got the basic shapes right in the churchyard scene, but overall my buildings weren’t very good.

As I glazed and scumbled a bit over the landscape, I felt a bit of sadness. I liked so much about the painting, but all I could focus on were the mistakes. I even scumbled and glazed over those awful buildings in some desperate wish that they would just go away. Of course, they didn’t.

“If it weren’t for those awful buildings, I would really love this painting,” I said, once again feeling my disappointment. I loved the gloomy, gray skies. I loved the rough, rugged terrain of the countryside. I loved the distant trees.

So, why not appreciate the good things, see the potential within those bits and pieces of the painting, and not make such a fuss about the awful parts? I smiled and took a photo of part of the painting.

Bit and Pieces of a Painting
I liked this part of the painting.

Sometimes I wish I could take a hacksaw and neatly crop a canvas — just as I do with photo editing programs. I wouldn’t mind having this scene framed and hanging on my wall. I see potential within it. It shows me that I can take an idea for a landscape and create a scene that comes close to my original vision.

I loved the rough, rockiness of the landscape, the contrast with the softness of the distant trees. I loved the gray skies.

Oh, yes, I really liked this part of the painting. Unfortunately it’s attached to the rest of the painting which was nothing short of a disaster.

The Rest of the Sorry PaintingWhat you’re seeing here looks worse now than it did before I started scumbling, glazing, and wishing I could get rid of the church and tower.

It all looks a bit lop-sided, and I wiped away all of the lights and shadows I first had on the buildings.

Part of me says, “Well, maybe it can be fixed.” The more realistic part of me says, “Chalk it up to experience, grab a different canvas, and keep working on drawing and painting buildings.”

Either way, I shouldn’t ignore the bits and pieces of this painting that are good. I wonder why it’s so always so much easier to focus on what we don’t like than it is to appreciate what’s good in our art.

Another painting I’m calling finished for now reflects a lot of similar thoughts.

Autumn Lake

Yes, if I look, I can find bits and pieces of this painting that I like. As with many of my other recent landscapes, this one is moving me closer to the impressionist style I want in my art. I can see more of the softness I want to develop, feel more depth and distance, and see more imaginative uses of color. These are steps in the right direction, I think.

So, for now, I’m going to focus more on finding those little bits and pieces I like in my art. As I did in the past, I’m going to consider my art successful if I can find even one thing that’s good. That doesn’t mean I’ll be putting any of these paintings up for display — other than here on my blog — but it does mean that I’m going to be pleased with what I’m doing. Even my awful paintings with awful buildings do have good things lurking within them.

It’s important that we always find those good things in our art. We will find them if we look.






  1. I really like your reflections here, and I think it’s great that you post the paintings you’re not so pleased with as well ☺ I have a lot more paintings I don’t like than ones I’m pleased with. But, as you mention, you find great outcomes in them as well which makes me want to hang on to them. I also struggle with the buildings, but we’ll just have to practice further I guess. The cropped version of it lookes so good!👏 ☺

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    1. Thanks. Yep, buildings are my downfall in painting. I’m doing much better with drawing them now in graphite or even ink, but painting them is another thing! I think that’s one reason why I’m drawn to landscape painting — I can get by without building most of the time. Still, I do want to paint those picturesque old barns, old churches, old houses, covered bridges, and other man-made structures. And from time to time, I’d like to do an urban landscape, too. Although cityscapes aren’t something I want to do too often, I still want to have the ability to do one now and then. As I’ve learned more about painting and have gained more experience, I’ve also become much more critical. I think at this stage of my art study, it’s important for me to start focusing on the positive things I see — even in failed paintings. It’s easy to get discouraged. I hope I can avoid that by looking for what’s good.

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  2. Oh gosh ! So much growth ! I want to say, “Don’t be impatient,” but I know from watching my own responses to the process of learning the cello, it’s easier said than done . Still, I see so much improvement in these buildings. I really think it’s the perspective that’s hanging you up. Our minds are so attuned to vanishing lines that when they don’t line up, we can’t suspend disbelief and enter into the painting. You could try an almost academic or mathematical approach to perspective in this painting. It’s fixable for sure and at the very least, would be a valuable educational experience !

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    1. …regarding the perspective , it’s only the roof line that’s off. The rest is good. The line from rooftop and the line from the base of the building need to intersect if extended way off the canvas. Right now they look nearly parallel . Easily fixed! Then play with the other architectural details, thinking about how they actually look, not how they function as symbols in our minds , and you’ve got it!

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  3. Look at it this way instead of “good” or “bad”: Does this element work in this painting? If not, you have now learned what not to do. So the next time you try something else. It’s just a process of exploration, not a running commentary on google or bad painting. And by the way, you CAN cut that canvas apart and frame the part that pleases you. You can stick it behind a piece of mat board that fits in a standard frame, and voilá!

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    1. Hacksaws might become my new best friends LOL. Yes, my failed paintings are learning experiences both for seeing what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for the encouragement.


  4. Hi Judith,
    I can really relate to your feelings about art that somehow fall short of one’s expectations. We learn and grow as artists by our ‘mistakes’, but only if we study them and try hard not to repeat them, e.g. I did a half dozen paintings of stormy skies and volcano paintings just to master a dry brush technique to learn blending colors in skies. Later I tried landscapes, working on cloud mists, attempting to conquering those parts in paintings that needed improvement as you can see on my blogsite. The key for beginning artists is to simplify compositions that don’t over challenge us. 😀

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    1. Simplification is a good thing… along with a lot of practice. It sometimes seems to be a rather “spotty” thing for me. I’ll make improvements in some areas, but other areas remain troublesome. I’ve been working on a lot on blending techniques, too. There is so much to learn!


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