View Full Version : Overcoming failed painting/wasted pastel blues...

08-10-2010, 03:11 PM
Just wanted to vent on how I just hate wasting a bunch of pastel on a large piece that doesn't turn out. :(

I guess I must realize that not every painting is going to be a masterpiece, but it just kills me when I spend a bunch of time and pastels on a big piece that fails! Anyone else ever feel this way?

Since I tend to work big, it's especially disappointing because I can't seem to stop thinking about all that wasted paint. I guess it's just part of the learning experience.

Thanks for listening.

Paula Ford
08-10-2010, 03:46 PM
You can't think like that Kim. How much did you learn with that failed painting? If you hadn't used all those pastels, you wouldn't have learned so much. Always paint like you have plenty of time and resources.

It's like I told a friend of mine when she was trying to get her tension right on her serger, before sewing a pair of pants, and she said she was wasting all that precious thread.

"Nancy, you've got to get over that! If your tension is not correct, your work will look sloppy and haphazard. Take the time and use all the thread you need to make it look beautifully done."

Quality of practice makes quality of work, no matter how much thread, paint, or pastels you use.

08-10-2010, 04:16 PM
Well said, Paula.


Donna T
08-10-2010, 04:17 PM
Paula's right, Kim. Sometimes I think our failed paintings are our most valuable because we learn from them. Before I wash or brush off a painting I take the time to write down exactly what went wrong on a sticky note and stick it to my easel. After seeing "didn't follow the values of the underpainting" and "didn't have a good color plan - made mud" more than once I really concentrate on those issues. Besides, if we weren't meant to replace our pastels those nice art supply companies wouldn't be having sales all the time. ;)

08-10-2010, 04:52 PM
Also, sometimes a portion of it is successful separately.

I always try to remind myself to paint like a millionaire, outcome be damned.

08-10-2010, 05:00 PM
Perhaps you are already doing this, but if you like to work large it is a good idea to do a good amount of preliminary work (thumbnails, small versions, etc.).

And, yes, I think we have all been frustrated by our paintings that don't turn out well. Supplies are expensive!


Deborah Secor
08-10-2010, 05:03 PM
Now go look at the wonderful work of Barbara Newton, especially this post (http://barbaranewtonartjournal.blogspot.com/2010/04/slices-old-and-new.html)! She reworks things all the time... Look at this one (http://barbaranewtonartjournal.blogspot.com/2010/01/third-times-charm.html), too. I admire her spirit of adventure. She was a colored pencil artist who did very classical still life for years, even authored a couple of books! Then she fell in love with pastel... Take some time to look around her bog(s) (she has a new one now) and see how she doesn't consider paintings failures!

08-10-2010, 06:31 PM
I smiled at this thread, because I could have written it myself. But then, which artist could not? (We all experience this.)

2 days ago I painted my first seascape: disaster. Ugly. Not sure I will ever be able to paint the sea and shore. (And that really worries me since I have a workshop in Maine coming up in 6 weeks.)

Today though, I painted a treeline / forest scene based on a simple set of instructions by Bob Rohm. I followed his instructions, attempting NOT to copy.... and it turned out great. Am very happy with it, and it's the type of art I want to produce!

I empathize with your spent pastels, paper, time, and confidence....

Yet, at least by now, you probably understand that it's not waste at all, but as Paula, Deborah, etc. wrote -- a valuable lesson learned -- which is more valuable than any "good" day you see at the easel. ;)


08-10-2010, 07:20 PM
Thanks everyone.

Paula & Donna - you're right, and that's a great analogy Paula. At the moment it just doesn't feel like I learned anything from this, but I will sit down tonight and figure out what I did wrong. I think it was lack of planning on values/color.

Potoma - Good point - there are a couple parts I like, maybe I can do some major cropping.

Don - thanks for the tip; I don't always do a thumbnail but I actually did on this one... it still failed. ;)

Deborah - Wow, Barbara is inspirational. It's true I could rework on this paper. I think I'm going to skip it this time because I made a homemade ground which was a bit chunky and I think may have been part of the problem to begin with. But it's good to realize there are other options - somehow I forget about how forgiving pastel is and just throw away my failures. Must not do this!!!

Dave - thanks for empathizing, it feels good to know I'm not the only one!! :)

Okay, I'm off my pity pot and going home to start a new painting.

Deborah Secor
08-10-2010, 07:55 PM
:D Remember, pastelists are just playing in the dirt! Be like a little kid and have fun just getting dirty...

Paula Ford
08-10-2010, 08:04 PM
Kim, I would love to see the painting. Would you be willing to post it?

08-10-2010, 09:43 PM
Paula: Well, you asked for it! I posted a wip of it a couple days ago but here's the update. Anyway, when I went back to check the post the attachments didn't show up (and I didn't remove them).

My brother liked my first abstract cityscape and wanted me to do a version of "Gotham City" so this was my pathetic attempt. I did do a crop like Potoma suggested and maybe it's not so bad...


08-10-2010, 09:47 PM
PS Paula don't you just love using those smoky purple Mt Visions! Hence my despair at wasting such lovely colors... but I know, it's not a waste. I am learning.

Paula Ford
08-10-2010, 10:25 PM
:lol: Yup, I know what you mean about those dusty purples :D It's almost like the feeling when I drop a beloved pastel on the floor and it shatters into a million pieces.

I really like this piece Kim!! If it were mine, I'd look at lots of other artist websites who you know do cityscapes. Here are some suggestions:








08-11-2010, 12:27 AM
Thanks Paula, they do some amazing work! I added a few more lights in the big building and am going to just let it sit on the wall for a few days.

08-11-2010, 09:53 AM
Kim, I think it's great! I like the fuller version. I think a few more lights would work, but I would make all of them a bit dustier of a yellow, less saturated. It's a blue painting and the brights makes it more cartoony, although that certainly might suit a Gothom theme.

Can't wait to come back and check out Paula's cityscape links. My favorite cityscape artist is Andrew McDermott: http://www.mcdermottart.com/. The opening sequence at his website is always a WIP. The last time I looked, it was a cityscape, but it's a figure now. He does incredible cityscapes! Check out his gallery.

08-11-2010, 02:51 PM
Andrew McDermott is AWESOME!! I love his sparse use of color and chiascuro effects. I could learn a lot from him. Thanks.