How to Get the Good out of a Bad Painting

Remember dating? For a while did it seem like all you attracted were TOADS? It can't be said enough, we learn from our mistakes, or at least I do, and we should. If we don't learn, we are destined to keep making the same mistakes over and over


This little 4x6 inch pastel mini painting was an experiment with the colors orange, violet and variations of greens and blue-green. As I've said in previous posts, miniature sizes are great for experiments. While I need to use up art supplies, my childhood prevents me from just wasting things purposely.


I could have chosen a larger format, but I knew that as an experiment the chances of a good work coming from it were less than if I had used the colors in ways I had used them previously. Besides, if it did turn out well, then I have a lower price mark items that sometimes is a great introduction price for a newer collector -- that never hurts.


The Experiment Details

Some time back I took three 4x6 sheets of paper and decided to just do some washes on them with each having a different color set, or at least each using the colors in different preportions to one another. Some days I just want to paint and grab something already started. These previous prepared minis let me just grab something and play around.


The 80/15/5 Color Principle

I loved the dark and light masses in the washed of version below. There is about 80 percent that is dark with violets of various shades, 15 percent with medium values and about 5 percent with what could become highlights. That's already a pretty good mix of darks, mediums and lights just on the wash. I liked the sweeping spontaneity of the paint strokes in the wash below. But I wanted to see if I could create something from nothing (turns out I couldn't) so I tried to see if these colors would let me do a sunset.


I Lost the Reason Why -- The Center of Interest

I liked the aqua green slash of color in the right lower third coming out from the splash of orange. But notice how muted the orange is in comparison. That is lost in the finished work. The idea of taking this to a sunset meant that I was going to push the oranges back, or try to. The wash above has way more character and reason for being than the first image that was finished.


The values above the bright aqua stripe are pushed back because they not only have soft edges, but they are muted or grayed down with some greens and orange blended into them; they recede. The darker blue-greens on the right and left of the washed in version come forward because they are not blended as much and the values are more pure.


The pinkish violet in the sky does the same thing -- the unblended, more pure color come forward as a sky above me might, and the blended, toned down hues of violet melt away into the distance as they should in something with atmospheric perspective.

I learned all these things before, from private lessons, workshops, reading demos, YouTube, etc. But I get distracted and forget the lessons as I am working, I think we are all guilty of that. We get focused on a shiny object and become blinded by what drew us to paint something in the first place (In this case for me it was the orange and wanting to make it brilliant).

What I learned

  • It's really more what I relearned -- distractions for me come from pretty colors

  • It might be good to make notes next time, why am I attracted to this subject or what is it about this wash that interested me in the first place

  • I set out to experiment with colors rather than setting out to examine my emotional response using colors -- the two are very different animals

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Avon Waters
Modern Artist