One of the possible things you might have encountered as a learning artist is deciding how far to push a piece of work. Whether it was intended as a finished painting or a training exercise, there seems to be always a point where things slow down and we don’t know why or how to continue. These experiences can become very frustrating as works stay for days or weeks on the easel before getting finally put away out of weariness.
In this post, I’d like to give you some insights about these situations and possible ways to deal with them.
Let’s be more concrete by taking two examples of my own work that have fallen into the same pattern. A sight-size cast drawing I made of one of my sculptures “La Vierge de Moissac” and a sight-size reproduction of a nude photo.
Here are the following drawings at their current stage.
You can see from these two examples that I was far from being finished.
Like me, you might have ended up asking yourself these questions :
- Is it worth continuing ?
- Should I move on to another drawing ?
- What needs working ?
- How much time will it take ?
- What kind of skills am I trying to improve ?
- To what level of finish do I really want to bring this drawing ?
The most important thing that I want you to know is these are usually very difficult questions. It is ok if you fail to answer them. Because they are more difficult than you might think. And if you are like me, working mainly on your own, it is even harder. That’s when a teacher or some advice from a fellow painter can be very useful.
If you don’t have access to a teacher, then here are some insights I gathered from these two works and that I’d like to share with you.
- Be mindful of the level of difficulty you’re tackling. I thought I could manage a cast drawing up to a finished state but my skills aren’t there yet. Many of the assumptions I had turned out false when put under high-level scrutiny and evidence gathering : my setting wasn’t appropriate, I didn’t balance the natural light correctly, I didn’t follow Darren Rousar’s procedure correctly, my drawing is still off, I haven’t even begun treating edges, my value transitions are off, I’m very far from a finished state … That is to say a lot of things that just can’t be handled all at once.
- Gathering evidence about what went wrong can be time-consuming and nerve-racking, the problem being that we don’t know in advance how much we’re going to get out of it. However, I can guarantee you that it will always prove useful to take a small amount of time for reflection.
- Always ask yourself what your real purpose is and how much effort you want to invest. I noticed that I usually choose to finish what motivates me the most. In the second example, I intended to sell the drawing and I just couldn’t let it go. I struggled and ended up with a fairly satisfactory result (here below).
I learnt a lot from both cases even if they didn’y end up the same way.
What have I done since I took the first snapshots?
Concerning the cast, I have decided to separate each problem and treat them individually before coming back to another statue : I will do some Bargue drawing, I will draw more simplified objects like cups, I will change my setup to a north light, …
Concerning the nude, here above is a picture of how it is looking after I decided to continue. It is much more cleaner than it used to be. I am confident that I can take it to a level of finish that is acceptable as a selling piece.
In closing, whatever one does, one should keep on moving!