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.
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.
What 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.
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.