It’s been a while since I’ve posted.

I’ve been knee deep in paint, ideas, work, and more the past several days.

My latest painting started as a mess. I had planned to sit down and sling paint as per usual. I planned to come out on the other end of the process with a decidedly loose and free feel. I planned to use only a palette knife to mix and create my vision. I planned very specifically to work this vision on a taller bit of canvas I purchased at JoAnns during a special friendly road trip last weekend. The hoard of acrylic paints I acquired during said weekend also added to my excitement and planning. But, as things would have it, I sat down, and things on the canvas – more specifically the colors – just weren’t sitting right with me at all. I’d made plans for a fun and energetic composition from my imagination of a warm desert landscape. But, I’d forgotten to plan for the most important part – my palette of colors.

For starters, I was having a hard time blending the orangey-tan underpainting I felt was needed to keep the brush and color work lively throughout. I find the stark white of an empty canvas works counterintuitively against my method of building depth and light, so having an underpainting gives me confidence to feel more expressive and loose overall. I do not always use an underpainting, but I find I do use them most times. In a nutshell, the transition from darkest dark to lightest light is much more pleasing when working over relatively dominant tone(s).

To continue with color, my choice of a Burnt Umber and Cad yellow just wasn’t getting that warm, pink-orange fiery glow you might see during a sunset drive with your buds. It wasn’t matching the same intensity of colors in artwork I routinely save to my Art I Like board.

As I fought and fought my palette of cad yellow, cad red, titanium white, bright aqua, ultramarine blue, and cobalt, I ran into a real problem.

I looked up at my work after 30 minutes, and saw I had done some really great brushwork, but the color was all wrong. It didn’t match what I saw in my imagination at all. Red, was hot and vibrant. Blue was hanging out all cool. You know? Outside of the sch . . . You get the idea. Anyway, these colors were nice, but my god the purples! They were as unsaturated and dead as could be; Leaning against a slightly dirty green-brown tinged sky. Does this sound appealing, or complicated and awful? It was horrendous to me. To top it off I was really happy with the composition and healthy fat strokes of paint, but I’d put so much focus on the final composition and quality in front of my mind. I got in my own way and mixing paint colors suffered a loss of focus on my part.

What happened?

Sadly, I have no before/after images for comparison here (I’ll try to bring more live updates and captures to the table on my Instagram account), but I’m not the best at thinking social media forward, yet. Either way, I’d continue into another session of trying to mix color for this painting the next day. Still, I had the same mixing results. Dirty greens, lifeless purples, and an overall dissonance of colors stared back at me. In my mind, I’d ruined my composition at that point. No amount of cover up was going to take care of the problem. Or, would it?

Fast forward. I’m on my THIRD cover up of this painting after 3 sessions/days! Still no dice. Colors are greatly improved, but now composition has no real foundation, and the paint is over-blended and dirty. Ladies and gentlemen, we passed the sign that says “no return” for this painting. One of the most disheartening things for me is fighting the idea of losing time because I value it so much. I’ve since learned to accept time in as time well spent – no matter the outcome. We learn through mistakes (and success), but alas the project’s screeching tires echoed into the ether of my soul.

After a break, an hour joyride, a bit of coffee, and some motivational words from my wife, I sat down for one of my favorite shows on YouTube, Ghost Town Living. I became inspired by the sprawling vistas on the screen, and immediately decided to restart and complete a base painting before heading to bed that same night. This time, however I’d be using a reference photo instead of relying solely on my own imagination to suss out the color temperatures and composition. Two hours later I had painted a mostly finished painting (edit will include image soon).

Something that was taking me days of starting over just whittled down to two hours by simply taking the guesswork out of the equation. I had built up so much expectation and pressure for myself by attempting to work solely out of my head, like some kind of stubborn art mule. I kept denying I needed a reference – besides, don’t I have years of art experience? Don’t I know what trees and rocks look like at this point in my life? I don’t know all the reasons why I felt this way. Maybe it had something to do with pride or ego? I wanted to refrain from using a reference photo because it felt unoriginal in some way. Maybe it was fear?

I know we’re getting a little off the rails here. I’m on the verge of self-deprecating with this one, but I know there’s someone reading this that needs to hear it. Stop being so caught up in your creative expectations that your self worth then becomes dependent upon their success or failure. Stop trying to reinvent wheels that work. Stop thinking it’s not beautiful if it doesn’t work for your taste. Just stop, and be objective in your own self criticism.

When you can step back and look away from the problem and instead focus on the solution, you open avenues for yourself to explore options that work for the task at hand. Steering back to the symptoms only leaves you feeling weak and without a path forward.

That being said, many weeks later here we are. I’d say one out of 5 paintings gets shelved as personal work (experiments, abstracts, mind session). And I’m good with that.

Post your own thoughts and feelings in the comments, or link to your own blog if you wish. Thanks for your time!

Go forth and CREATE!

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