Last December I started a new painting. At the time I was reading an oil painting book in which the artist advocated starting with the darkest and lightest values, more or less mapping out those points on the canvas. So, that was how I began.
I completed that first step, loved the results, and set the painting aside to dry before I began working on additional details. So far, so good. Too good, in some respects. I was totally enamored by what I saw on my canvas, and consequently I became afraid of the painting, afraid that anything I did would ruin it. My promising start led to a paralyzing end.
And so the painting sat on my easel. This is one of the reasons why I shied away from oil painting for so long. Instead of painting, I played the piano. Instead of painting, I took up the challenge of learning to play the violin. Instead of painting, I just looked the other way, but with each passing day I became a little more ashamed of myself. I’d started a beautiful painting. At some point, I had to go back and finish it, otherwise what was the point of it all?
So, I eased my way back into oil painting. I did a few seascapes. I attempted to paint an old barn in a farm field. I got re-accustomed to the feel of a brush in my hand. I re-acquainted myself with my oils and my canvases.
Then came the moment of truth. I knew it was time to pick up this painting and do something with it. Yes. Do something, even if it’s wrong.
Here is where the painting is today:
I wish I could say I was happy with this result, but I’m not. I have gone back and re-done things on this painting every day for the past week. One day I lighten the water or change its course slightly. The next day I darken it again. First I add more detail to the ground, and then I don’t like it, wipe it away, and I try again, only to not like that either.
Still, I’m glad for all I’ve done. This painting has given me lots of opportunity to make mistakes. It’s given me a chance to work on making changes. I now approach this canvas with a bit of glee. I rub my hands together, cackle a bit, and exclaim, “Aha, my pretty! What can I do to you today?”
Actually, I think today I’ll let the painting rest a bit. We’ve had quite a workout together, and I have other unfinished paintings on my easel. It’s time to look and them and do something… even if it’s wrong.