When I first got all these oranges, I tried a larger still life with them that took 2 days, and at the end of it, well lets just say it had problems. Composition problems. And I realized that I have been feeling constrained by the size of my shadowbox when it comes to composing for larger scenes. So I finally made it wider! It was pretty easy as it just meant a few more pieces of pvc. I'll post a picture and more details soon. Have I done another larger painting since then? No, I'm scared, of course. But I will get over it soon.
Click Here to Bid (8x8in. - starts at $150 - the red didn't photograph perfectly, sorry)
Jennifer Buxton asks:
“Hi Carol, I really like your idea of doing a series of paintings. What do you recommend for a painter who wants to keep working on her current painting but feels stuck...I like my effort so far but fear wrecking it if I continue, yet the thought of not finishing it makes me feel like I am adding it to the pile of almost finished paintings. I could just start a new one in the series and then come back to this one...I guess my question is, I feel as though I often get to a point where I just don't know what to do, and I've birthed another still born. What can you suggest? Thank you!”
Hi Jennifer and thanks! First let me say that this happens to me too. I am going along with a painting, and as soon as I get within sight of the finish, I get cold sweats. “Oh no,” I think, “this has been going so well - I’ve put hours, maybe days, into it - what if I screw it up and this has all been for nothing?!” And I’ll ask you what I always ask myself: “What horrible thing is going to happen if this painting doesn’t turn out?” I remind myself that I am not going to learn anything if I let the fear prevent me from finishing. So I might slow down a little, acknowledge the fear, maybe be a little more thoughtful as I finish the painting, but I finish.
It can be so incredibly demoralizing when you spend hours, or days, or more on a painting, only to have it not work out. It happens to me on a regular basis. My husband used to say my mood was only as good as my last painting. : ) But in the past few years I’ve been trying to celebrate those failures. They show me that I am trying new things - experimenting. Because if we stay in our comfort zone - if we only paint the things we know we’re good at, then we’re not growing as artists.
If you find you’re doing one “still born” after another, maybe you need to divide it up into parts and practice each thing separately. For example, if you’re having trouble with value, do some value sketches before you paint. Or if you’re having trouble with paint application, try a bunch of 10-minute versions of the difficult parts of your scene (like my 10-minute apples). If drawing is your problem, try drawing your scene a few times - I promise it will get better each time. Find a similar scene on Pinterest that you like and copy it for practice. Maybe you will learn that it is your composition that needs to be improved, rather than how you paint it. Most of all, don’t ever consider your efforts a waste of time (or materials)!!! With each brush mile you improve, even if you don’t have anything to show for it at the end of the day. The worst thing you can do is let it demoralize you to the point that you stop trying.
And one more thing, I recommend putting those bad ones away as quickly as possible. They will suck your soul if you leave them out where you see them every time you go into your studio. Hide them, throw them out, paint over them, but most of all, move on quickly.
Oh, oh! And try taking a picture of your painting, loading it onto your computer or tablet, and trying out a few endings, digitally, before committing to paint. : )
“Hi Carol, I have a question about length of drying time for paintings.... How is it possible for your oil paintings to be dry so quickly that you can mail them out to buyers in a week or so? Mine take ages and then I need to varnish as well. Thank you.”
Thanks, Dawn! I get this one a lot. There are several reasons my paintings are usually dry by the time my auctions end. One is that I am often ahead with my paintings - by the time I post a painting (in a 7-day auction) it has usually already had a few days to dry. I also paint fairly thin. I’m not necessarily advocating for this, it’s just the way I’ve always painted, but it definitely speeds up the drying time (and I find it easier to control the paint, but I digress). I also use a medium (that I mix myself) that I suspect helps the paint dry faster. I’ll add my recipe below, but there are also commercial mediums you can buy that do the same thing (like Gamblin’s Galkyd Medium).
One more thing that I should note (and no, I do not get a kickback from Gamblin) is that when I varnish, I use Gamblin’s Gamvar. My understanding is that you don’t have to wait quite as long before you varnish as you do with traditional varnishes (it is also odorless!). After varnishing, I can ship the painting the next day. I let my buyers know that it will take up to 5 days to ship, which gives me a little leeway in case the paint is thicker than normal, or I have other things going on that prevent me from shipping immediately. My medium recipe: 2 parts linseed oil | 1 part stand oil | 1 part OMS (I use Gamsol)
"Your work always looks spontaneous and fresh. I would tend to take that same painting a step further and create "bad realism" rather than "great impressionism" (if that makes sense). I guess the question is "How do you know when to stop" ?"
Thank you, Alan! I thought about this all day. I think of my little paintings like little poems. I try to summarize what I’m seeing – to paint my subject with as few brush strokes as possible, just the important ones, and not much blending (if at all). So I spend a LOT of time observing (squinting). And mixing. Because once I put down a stroke, there it is. It is not often possible to “fix” it, especially when it overlaps previous strokes. In this way it’s kind of like a dance, or a golf game. You do your best, and once it’s finished, there’s nothing to be done about it except try it over again. Many of my little paintings go in the trash. None of them are ever perfect! But sometimes they are good enough, and that’s what I show. So when do I stop? When I’ve put down every stroke that seems important, and not one more. : )
I've been chatting with a friend recently about learning and staying motivated. It reminded me how much I like doing a series. I find I learn (and re-learn) a ton about a particular subject by doing a bunch of the same thing. I just finished a cup series, and now I'm on to pears. Once I'm truly happy with the progress, and I start getting bored with the subject, I move on to the next one. I think if I instead painted a completely different subject every time, I wouldn't learn nearly as much.
It occurs to me in writing this that if anyone has a particular question they would like me to answer here, please ask and I'll answer so everyone can see. : )
We've had this box of watermelon tea for a while, and no one seems to be drinking it. So I decided to make the tea and use it as a prop. Unfortunately, when I was pouring it into the last cup I heard a little -pop- and suddenly tea was leaking out of the sides of it. I honestly can't remember where I got that particular little cup, but it makes me very sad that it now has a crack in it. You'd think they would be made to withstand hot temperatures. But anyway, that's why one cup is empty.