Ever notice that no matter how good you are, there are four categories your paintings fall under? There's:
- As good as you can do. For the rare painting when everything falls into place, and you have achieved the painting you always thought you were capable of doing. You submit these to competitions, and are the most proud. These paintings are the reason you keep going.
- Good, but not great. Honestly, we make our living on paintings in this category. This type of painting has a lot of good elements, but in your eyes, it just misses the mark.
- Not my best. These didn't really live up to what you wanted at all. These are the ones I usually supply to charity auctions, if truth be told. I may not like the painting, but someone else may have a differing opinion. Lastly, there's the-
- God, I suck! These bad boys never see the light of day. 'Nuff said.
Don't despair, though, for the paintings in the last two categories might become usable. Maybe the problem with them was just a matter of timing. Hey, we all bite off more than we can chew on occasion. Maybe after a few years of painting under your belt, you've learned how to mix the colors you needed to make it work. These are also good paintings to experiment on. I like to haul them out and try some different glazing techniques on them. Maybe doodle with some knife work I've been meaning to try. Word of caution though: No amount of clever color will fix a painting whose major weakness was poor drawing, or skewed perspective.
The painting I used at the top of the page is an example of bringing the dead back to life. I started this painting of a lovely stone footbridge in Hallowell, Maine with the concept of making it a nice summer scene. The sun light would light up the bridge while a babbling brook flows underneath. I thought the dark woods flanking the opening, with a pretty green meadow in the distance would be a nice touch. I excitedly jumped in, and finished the stone bridge, pronto! Then I stalled. I couldn't envision the rest of the scene at all. So, I threw some dark colors around for the woods, and maybe some blue for the brook, and called it good. Except it wasn't. I was completely dissatisfied with it.
The painting sat in a closet for two years before I brought it out one day to look at it. Or maybe I was just moving it out of the way to put in another dud. Either way, I gave it a long, hard look. Why not turn it into a winter scene? a little voice in my head asked, (Not all voices are bad things...) You've got nothing to lose. So, I put it up on the easel and went to town. Two days later, it was done. Couple of things to notice, though. Can you make out some ripply, yellow highlights on the rocks on the underside of the bridge? They were left over from the original summer idea. A frozen stream doesn't reflect like that. And the clouds in the back are summer Cumulus clouds, and wouldn't be there in the winter. Putting that aside, while this may not be a great work of art, trust me, it's better than what it was.
So go back and look at some of your old lemons. Who knows, you might just make a nice tasty glass of lemonade.