"After the Rain"
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
There are times when a painting just doesn't seem to want to enter the realm of excellence. The stubborn rascals (paintings) can seriously stump us artists about where to take it next. I have had many of those times when a painting just would not allow me to finish it because it would not tell me what it needed.
Does this situation ring a bit of truth for you?
If so, maybe you do the same thing, or something close to it, with those pieces . . .
I found that if I kept a flat file drawer (now two of them) reserved strictly for those paintings who steadfastly and stubbornly held sway with the Art Gods and would not coach me to the finish point.
The file drawer has held paintings awaiting finish for years and years! Every year, some occasion would arise that would cause me to go into that drawer and look through the paintings there. Something like an upcoming show or class might cause me to scour through that drawer just in case I may have accidentally slipped a good one in there. Then one would grab me in a sudden instant! Most often it was a complete and sudden realization of what needed doing to a few of those pieces resting in the drawer. Out they would come, onto my easel, and in a matter of a few moments and some simple changes (or additions) the paintings would find their completeness. Then there are those who stubbornly remain in the drawer for goodness knows how long!
I recently upgraded to a new, bigger flat file as I had outgrown the other . . . .that is to say I could no longer open the drawers without something getting caught or jammed in the works! I had just plain filled it up!
So, in the transfer from the old flat file to the new, I discovered the piece above. I know, for a fact, that painting has been hiding in there for over 15 years !! Yes!! 15 years !!
Before I finish my story, allow me to make a few instructive statements here . . . .
The first is that I have come to realize that while our vision that began the painting in the first place us is often way ahead of our artistic understanding and development when the actual act of painting occurred. That is to say that these "stalls" in the completion of a painting are quite normal! Sometimes we just have to wait while we gather more experience and knowledge before we can see what a painting needs. When we rediscover one of these paintings at rest in its hiding place, the realization of what it needs, in order to be finished, hits us like a bolt of lightening! Am I right? It is a sudden realization and usually a verbal muttering of "Of Course! Why didn't I see that earlier?"
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!" In other words, we need to be "ready" . . . .that is we need to have reached the proper point in our development to actually see the needed modification and how to accomplish it! We simply had to put the piece away until we were "ready."
On occasion, we will rush to the finish out of pure excitement . . . .and ruin the piece. My question to you when that happens is "So What?" By the time we got around to 'fixing' the piece, we probably didn't have the emotional attachment that we did when we first painted it. The painting has been silently, microscopically disintegrating while it waited for us to get around to it. Okay, I spoiled another one. Move on! Chalk this one up to more experience! There is no point in shedding tears. We gave it the "old college try."
Back to my story about the above painting. I remember discovering this rascal and pulling it from hiding. As I scanned it, instantly knew what had to be done ( I won't bore you with details ). Better, I remembered all the build up to get to the place where I put it away (a lot of water, paint and paper has passed under the bridge in the last 15 years!!). I was instantly reminded of my old painting buddy, Bill, and how we happened upon this scene . . . .and the ensuing excitement to put the subject to work. And, of course, a lot of "Bill Memories" flushed into existence then, too! I suppose that is one very good reason to put a few of those stubborn ones away . . . just to remind us of some great times.
In summary, be patient. Be patient to allow your artistic growth to catch up to you and your painting attempts. In time you will understand. Gradually, you will gather the needed wisdom about making art. You won't feel it happen, but you may see it in your work. Remember, your development as a painter can only come with experience . . . .lots and lots of brush miles accumulated at the end of your arm and hand. Only then will you be able to "save" those few pieces that you put away for later. Don't throw them away! Just keep moving forward. And you will, at some place in time, be able to bring the full measure of excellence to your work . . .old or new.