The gift of a failed painting

I am going to make a bold claim. Artists don’t know what they are doing.

Every artist starts out with a basic idea that can be summed up as, “Let’s try this.” And at some point, it doesn’t work. Some artists mitigate this failure by doing sketches, value plans, and studies. Some artists just start applying paint and fix problems as they arise. The idea of artists admitting problems is pretty new in terms of art. The old masters, long held up as faultless artists, have recently had x-rays show just how hard they had to work to get it right. Modern painters–such as Picasso, Van Gough, and Seurat–have recently been unable to hide less-than-spectacular works under masterpieces. One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely.

More than many artists, I share my failures and experiments that just didn’t work out.

For some reason, my 2016 painting of galloping horses has been on my mind this week. I dragged it out of storage and put it on my “think about it” wall. As a recap, it started out as an ice painting that didn’t work. Then I added more paint. Then gesso juice. Then more watercolor. And more watercolor. Looking at it this week, I decided there was just no way this was going to work out as a watercolor painting. So, I sketched over some problem areas, took out my acrylics, and went to work.

It’s not done. I need to buy some teal paint to resolve some areas (I couldn’t seem to mix anything close and didn’t have the color). I’m also not sure about the left horse’s shape. But I had a good time and enjoyed the feeling of making some progress on a painting that has been waiting for resolution for over four years.