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When a Painting Isn’t Quite Working, What Do You Do?

It’s a tough one as you’ve already invested a lot time, and abandoning it can feel so disheartening and make you feel like you’ve failed but rest assured, no matter how long you’ve been painting, not all work will be successful.

Here are a few things I like to do or try:

Walk Away

Stepping away from your painting and returning to it can give you a new perspective. Often when we are standing over paintings for long periods, we get blinkered vision and can no longer really see what we are doing, so walking away for a while and taking a break, you return and spot something you didn’t before.

Turn It Upside Down

As crazy as that might sound, turning the painting upside down and looking at it from afar helps to stop your eye from looking at what it is, and instead, you focus on the larger shapes and tones. Try it; you’ll be surprised.

Take a Photo

So many times, I’ve completed a painting, taken a photo, and noticed something that jarred. Viewing your work on a device again gives you another way of looking and potentially spotting things that aren’t quite working.

Leave it a Few Days / Weeks

Before marking it a failure and painting over it, leave it and have some time away from that piece, work on other paintings, try out some new techniques or tools, and you might just get that ‘ah ha’ moment when you realise what needs changing. I often return to older pieces and continue working on them as I’ve either developed a new style or way of working that I feel the piece could benefit from.

If All Else Fails

If you’ve done all of the above and nothing is working, then perhaps it’s time to paint over it. Don’t call it a failure; call it a valuable lesson. Nothing is ever a failure all the time we are progressing in our work, so be kind to yourself. Even the masters often got it wrong and were known to paint over pieces several times.

Happy painting!

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