Weekly video: How to NOT ruin your painting!

This demo shows how you can paint effectively without worrying that you might lose your progress or ruin your painting.   I thought I’d discovered this method a few years ago, but recently found out that the artist Abbott Handerson Thayer(1849-1921) did almost the same a century ago.

3 thoughts on “Weekly video: How to NOT ruin your painting!

  1. Brandon Van Every

    Hi Stefan. I can understand “rehearsing” a painting, so that successive versions show improvement. Becoming familiar with certain parts of a subject, or certain working methods, definitely does help. However over the years, I’ve noticed that I “rehearse” parts of a painting anyways, even if only doing 1 version, with no preparatory work at all. Especially if I haven’t painted in awhile, I “mess around with” some part of the painting, until I’m satisfied that I like the way I’m doing it. If I don’t like the way I’m doing it, I can paint over it, as I work in acrylics.

    However I don’t paint over much of anything, because I started life as a watercolorist. My instinct is “do it once and it’s DONE”. Then I have to sit on my hands and not ruin it. That is ANOTHER WAY to not ruin things: develop judgment that what is on the canvas is actually good, and that one DOES NOT need to compulsively rework it. So many beginning to intermediate artists, they seem to be afraid of the problems and rework stuff too much, thereby ruining it. “When to stop” is as important skill as “being able to keep going”, which I think is more what your present video is about.

    Anyways the best advice I got for “not ruining things”, was to work “the whole painting” especially at the beginning, and not get bogged down in the details at first. Also to step back and look at it from far away, to see what it looks like when someone notices it from across a gallery. Many problems or solutions show up when one takes one’s face out of a painting.

  2. Kalapishev Artist Post author

    HI Brandon, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment! I agree with everything you said. I definitely believe in knowing when to stop – I’ve been working in watercolor for a few years before I took up oils. Maybe I will make a video on that topic too. My problem seems to be that it’s hard for me to push through certain stages or certain challenges if I stop out of fear. The need to compulsively rework, as you say, might be even worse. Probably the hardest thing is to be aware of where things are going while painting.
    Working “the whole painting” is essential as a guiding principle, and stepping back is a habit that I’m still working on. However, I’ve been advised to start with the most interesting feature (a “feature” might be the atmospheric quality itself) and spend my spontaneity there – at least for a few initial brushstrokes. I often find myself working the whole thing and forgetting what the point of interest was.

    1. Brandon Van Every

      Point of interest, lol! “Why paint any particular image at all?” is a question that plagued me for 2 years. Recently I’ve moved past that. I’ve had specific images in my mind for decades, that have interesting qualities about them, that I’d like to realize in paint. Now I have a new problem: “Why paint anything that isn’t going to last for a thousand years?” But that’s more about archival materials than the act of painting itself.


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