The one that got away.
As you can probably tell, this one didn't work out so well.
Despite working on it over three days, and repainting it twice, in the end I had to let it go - mainly because the flowers had wilted and the painting still wasn't working.
What I got wrong here was a lack of focus. I spent far too long messing about with the background cloth, trying to make it believable as a piece of cloth. I just couldn't get it. I painted it twice, this picture shows the painting after I'd scraped off the background for the second time. If the flowers hadn't wilted I probably would have tried again, probably fruitlessly. It's probably also obvious that I couldn't be bothered to take a decent photo of this one. It takes a bit of time and effort to take decent photos of these paintings, and there doesn't seem to be much point when the painting hasn't worked out.
For what it's worth, I took a few progress shots during this one, so here's some of them, all from the second day:
At this point I'd been working for about two hours. I know it doesn't look like I've got very far, but I was spending a long time making sure that those few colour notes I have got in were right. You can see the tester panel above the one I'm painting on. All my colours went down on this panel first, meaning that I could then check that they were right with the colour checker.
Which leaves the main photo above, the most recent one. That photo was taken on day three, all I did at that point was scrape the background off again. It looked awful. But I didn't take the painting any further because the flowers were already wilting, and I decided I'd be better off just starting a new painting. This one had definitely got away and there was no way I going to be able to get it back.
So what conclusions can I draw from this? Well, the first thing that strikes me is that no matter how much better I think I'm getting, this is still going to happen sometimes. Every now and again a painting is just not going to work out, and I have to accept that.
For this particular painting, I let myself get too involved in the background at the expense of the painting. After all, this is a series of ten flower paintings, not ten background paintings. So I guess the most useful thing I can take from this is an awareness of how losing the focus of the painting can scupper the entire thing. This painting would have probably worked out fine if I'd just put in a general colour for the background and then got straight on with the flowers. So I'll just try to keep one eye on focus in future and try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Yesterday I was in the National Gallery again, looking at Rubens and Rembrandt paintings, two of my favourites. They're both very instructive because you can see how they built up their paintings. What always surprises me about both of those painters is how loose and sketchy much of the surface of the painting is. Especially Rubens, his backgrounds are often just barely suggested, with loose areas of daubed on colour, painted very thin with what looks like a high percentage of medium to help the paint flow, and with the streaked ground showing through in many places. But get to the faces, and you can see where he spent his time and effort. They're just stunning, and he could make flesh live like no-one else, that I've seen anyway, except for maybe Van Dyck. So that's the lesson I'm taking from this painting and from Rubens, to focus on the subject and to do just as much as is required across the rest of the surface of the painting. Thanks for the good advice Peter Paul, I'm listening.back to paintings