How to Save a Failed Painting

The journey from concept to completion isn't always a strait line. In the past, I sometimes had ideas that didn't work and I kept trying to force the square peg in the round hole. Lately, I've been able to let the painting go where it wants rather than try and convince myself "yeah, this is okay."

The evolution of this work could only come about because I am understanding picture area design more. What I thought was going to be an "L" or elle design, turned into what is known as a "three spot" composition. Below is the drawing. The elle shape can clearly be seen in the pencil notan thumbnail as well as in the large shapes blocked in with color.

The Three Spot Design Solution

Above is the painting as I thought it would be. Again, the traditional elle design, but by the time the horizon and atmosphere were added, it just wasn't working as well as the thumbnail sketch. Changes had to be made. I had several options: I could have lightened and grayed down the background so the tree and shadows would be darker and the background lighter and more like the drawing. But to me it screamed to change the design altogether.

With the addition of two more elements, a tree in the middle ground, and the edge of one coming into the frame, the perspective of the original image changed and the center of interest shifts from the original

. Had I lightened the horizon and background and had a single tree and shadow, I would have faced issues of "a floating tree." Although the three spot solution might not make this a masterpiece, it did save a failed painting and I needed that since the one before this was an abject failure no matter what I tried.

What I learned

  • Don't be stubborn, be open to change

  • Sit and look a while. New ideas sometimes take time to see

  • My vision isn't always where a work needs to end up

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