Doing a bad painting is very discouraging. You started with such high hopes, and suddenly you are looking at a piece of paper with some squiggles and blotches on it. Not what you had in mind at all. I’ve heard some artists state that if one out of every ten paintings turns out, they consider that to be a huge success. On the other hand, I’ve heard artists say that they just keep working on the painting until something turns out. I have posted many failures to this blog over the years. One of my favorite posts is on failed paintings (The Gift of a Failed Painting.) Artists know so much failure that it is hard not to become annoyed when people compliment your talent. Whatever amount of talent you have, you’ve also put in hundreds and thousands of hours of practice and study.

Next week starts the Second Annual Coastal Plein Air. Like last year, Sandra and I have picked out a weekend to paint together. To prepare, this weekend I checked out three videos on landscape painting topics and prepared to learn. One video I had seen before and one was essentially a step-by-step, but the third was a gem. I had either watched this video before or seen the technique, but Tony Van Hasselt really nailed the presentation. The title was Fun with Figures, and I certainly had a good time!

The basic idea is to simplify the human form and let the little happy accidents tell the story. It’s similar to carrot people, but produces figures with a little more bulk.

Start out with three letters: U, W, O.

Turn the U upside down, then draw a VERY long W under it. Add the O for the head.

More complicated figures include more letters: X, V, H, and A.

When you start using paint to create the figures, things start to get more interesting. Obviously, I was just using scrap paper and the colors on my palette, so don’t be too thrown by the blue people and occasional random line.

I’ve always been hesitant to include figures in my landscape paintings, afraid they would ruin it. I’m giving myself a challenge during this event: turn in at least one painting with a figure. I don’t want my paintings defined by the things I’m afraid I can’t do.