View Full Version : Stinkers

07-07-2005, 09:33 AM
Ok, I admit I don't handle disappointment well sometimes, and when it comes to making art I'm bound to be disappointed time and again because my results always fall far short of my expectations. :D

So what's a good trick for keeping an eye on the ultimate goal? I imagine even experienced artists must produce stinkers from time to time.

Last week I started my first-ever life-drawing class, and I did my first picture in soft pastels, which I posted in the soft pastels studio at:

Since I did it I naturally saw all sorts of flaws (aren't we our own worst critics?) but in general was pretty satisfied with it as my first attempt at life drawing. Last night was the second class - and we have the same model in the same pose for three weeks, so I decided to do her in oil pastels this time, and that's what has me bummed out. A major case of one step forewards and two backwards. But since I had decided I was going to post all my weekly efforts I did post her in the oil pastels studio at:

But I hate her. She is rotten and cartoony. Her face and head are awful, and even more awful when I compare her to last week's picture. Why does it seem so much worse when a person turns out rotten than it does when a tree or a pear turns out rotten, LOL? Well, this week I left enough room to include her feet (did not last week, as feet are scary), and I am not totally disappointed in her feet, but who cares about feet when the face is so rotten. I think it's too late to put a lampshade over her head. :p

Now I have to figure out what I'm going to try to do with her next week to boot! Some of the students in the class ignored her body all together and are just doing her head. I thought of maybe just head and upper torso, but she is far enough away from me that I can't even make out her features distinctly. So how could I ever do something like her eyes when her eyes just look like beady little dots to me. I don't even have a clue what color they are. :)

Anyway, any suggestions for next weeks' class?

Debbie C.

Kathryn Wilson
07-07-2005, 09:41 AM
Debbie, every painting is a success in that you've learned something from the doing of it. So don't despair - and keep at it.

On the other hand, and this is my personal opinion - I think you've taken on too much all at once. You've just started in soft pastels, then switched over to oil pastels the next week. Why not concentrate on learning one of the mediums at a time - one until you feel comfortable - then try the next one.

This is coming from an artist who does both - and switching back and forth from soft to oil pastels is not an easy thing. Oil pastels act differently, are painted differently, and the brain doesn't easily switch sometimes - at least mines doesn't. :(

So take it easy on yourself and try whichever one you feel most comfortable with right now -

K Taylor-Green
07-07-2005, 10:45 AM
Debbie, Good advice from Kat. And I don't do OP, just softies.
But if you are just learning to draw, trying two mediums that work so differently is only going to complicate matters. I tell my students, "Baby steps til you feel steady, then longer strides."
You'll be fine, just hang in there and don't give up.

Piper Ballou
07-07-2005, 11:11 AM
From what I have read about your story it is a lot like me, I meant harsh criticism about my art when I was young and pretty much gave it up. I have very poor self esteem and still feel that I cannot do much but I love to draw and found pastels and my niche for art.
We make Origami cranes in my class at school ( I am a teacher) and after the kids struggle with making one I tell them, now they have 999 more to make. Because it takes making a 1000 to learn how to make one. I teach the rough and tough kids, and actually have some that make them for days.
Kat's and Kate's advice is good, pick one medium and stick with it, paint 1000 paintings so you can be good to paint 1 :rolleyes:

07-07-2005, 12:05 PM
Debbie- the first one is great- esp. for a first attempt at life drawing! I think in general the oil pastels are much harder to work with. Most artists I know (including professional photographers) are rarely entirely satisfied with their work- yes, we are our own worst critics. I think this shows real talent, and is much better than my stinkers- which I throw away- that means most of 'em!

07-07-2005, 01:32 PM
Well all your advice is very sensible. I do love pastels, and I like both the softies and the oilies, and see pros and cons in each for me, some of them being:
Soft pro:
1) More control
2) Easier (for me at least) to layer
3) ability to achieve finer detail
Soft con:
1) so fragile, even spraying fixitive does not keep them "fixed". I can't frame them, and have not yet read of a way that I like that will keep them safe. (I have read of many ways, just nothing that appeals to me!)
2) pastel dust all over my dining room and eating area - not good but the only place in the house I have to work.

Oil Pro:
1) Does not smudge as easily, feels more "permanent".
2) Colors seem more vibrant (I love color!) and shiny
3) No pastel dust anywhere

Oil Con:
1) harder (for me) to layer colors
2) can't achieve detail and fine control

Well, those are the ones that leap out at me off the top of my head. I guess if I had to concentrate on one I would pick the softies, but they are such a MESS, and several of the pictures I wanted to keep got ruined just from an accidental bump up against them. But I do like playing with the oilies and don't want to give them up completely - but maybe I will have them for things where I don't care so much about trying to achieve detail and control, like human faces. :D

Debbie C.

Piper Ballou
07-07-2005, 01:58 PM
Debbie, use some glassine paper, to protect your pastels, it is really nice, it will protect the surface.
about framing, the safe bet is to use a double mat for framing, and put the painting under glass
about the mess of soft pastels....think that is what I like, being in the middle of it, and everything washes off
I have learned the hard way not to blow off the dust from the painting, give it a tap on the back over a trash can
right now I am just using softies, but someday I will give oils a try

07-07-2005, 07:54 PM
Hi there,

I must tell you that I started with oil pastels, but after trying soft ones, I realized that it was easier for me to achive more realistic paintings with those. Of course that if I should put more time into oil ones I would do better than in the beginning.
But now let's talk about what's important : your work.
Of course that the painting is not perfect, but I think it's quite well done for a first.
Besides drawing from life, ESPECIALLY A FIGURE, is dificult.
If you are comparing your work with other works you see at galleries or museums and so on, don't forget that those(the really good ones) were done by people who worked VERY hard to achive that. And that is not achieved in 2 or 3 years but in several years. And DON'T compare your work with others, unless you want to learn more with others' works, which is just fine. Because if you are trying to see if your work is better or worst, you may be looking at the work of a person that's been painting people for 5 years, for insteance.
Relax and just learn. Don't worry with the achievement, too much, but with the experience you'll get.



Deborah Secor
07-07-2005, 10:49 PM
Debbie, hang in there! You're doing okay, and I like that you're so up front about the struggle. Why not do this: since the model is keeping the pose for so long...DRAW her. You can use your pastel paper and a plain old #2 pencil, or any other drawing tool you like. Then if it starts to come together, you could add some color with the softies. Think of it as a vignette, not a big, finished all over painting. That way if you feel like you're muffing it, so what? It's just a drawing.

I love to draw on my easel, upright, because it gives me practice recording things the way I'll eventually paint them. After all, using pastels is drawing with color! I really enjoy drawing on Wallis paper (toned with a nice neutral color first) using charcoal. It gives me some nice results and if I want to add pastel it works quite well.

You might think this way, as well. Instead of laboring over the entire portrait for the whole class, tae a nice large drawing pad and draw different aspects of the model. Do a sketch of her face, one of her feet, the hands, maybe the shapes around the outside of the body--that kind of thing.

I don't know if your class allows such innovation, but I find it helps me a lot not to struggle with something. For instance, when I began working on location I had a hard time, but once I agreed to let myself make 'color sketches' out there, instead of finished (but bad) paintings, I found I had far more success. And now I occasionally find that I DO finish them out there, but I wouldn't likely have gotten to that point if I'd just labored and lost...


07-09-2005, 10:41 PM
Deborah, I like your advice, and I think for this last and final class I *will* maybe just draw certain aspects of her. I certainly need drawing practice, and practice with figures. I could easily just work on her feet. :)

Debbie C.