How to get unstuck....

Do you have days when everything is going right, almost effortlessly? I love when that happens! Just last week, everything I put on the canvas was looking good and I was feeling great in the studio. I was being efficient, working on several pieces at a time, making good progress....I was on a roll. Such a joyful feeling!

Then all of a sudden, inexplicably, the opposite happened. Everything I did looked like crap. Colors got muddy. I scraped off areas and tried again. Bleh. No good. I ran through my mental checklist: Are my darks dark enough? Are the lights light enough? Does the eye move around? Are the shapes different and interesting? Are the brush strokes too similar? Is it too busy? 

It feels like my thought process is fine, but the hand doesn’t seem to be cooperating! Maybe I’m thinking too much. 

At times like these, sometimes it is best for me to walk away, let the paint dry and come back later, when I’m not frustrated, or negative, or too attached.

Instead of stressing about what to do next, I have found it’s more productive to just go for it. If it looks terrible, it’s ok. Ugly is part of the process. Sometimes a piece of ugly becomes a really cool part of the painting.  

I wish I had known this years ago. Used to be, when I got stuck, I would give up and just stop painting....for years at a time! Now, given my advanced age(!!) there is no time for that. 

I talk to myself!

I've been working on this large painting for a while. It's a
40" x 72" diptych, a commission for a friend's dining room.
It's getting there, but needs some serious refining. I'm at the point where I like more than 50% of it, so I need to slow down and be judicious.

Untitled diptych, WIP     40 x 72    oil on canvas

Untitled diptych, WIP     40 x 72    oil on canvas

This morning, while looking at it, I noticed I was talking to myself! If you want to get technical about it, I was not really all by myself. My husband was within earshot, reading the paper. But we have been married long enough that he knows when I'm talking to him and when I'm talking to myself. In other words, it was OK that he was tuning me out. For all intents and purposes, I was talking to myself.

Call it a quirk, but this is part of my creative process. I mean, wouldn't it be something if I could just paint  la-la-la  and  Voila!!   Masterpiece!

Mais non! There must be some struggle. (More about struggle on my next post.)

So, I paint....stand back and look....tilt my head this way....stand back and look some more....tilt my head that way.....go away and work on something else...wait for the paint to dry.....come back and look some more....paint a little here, paint a little there. In other words, it takes a while. It's a process. Paint. Discern. Paint. Discern.

Taking a photo of my work in progress (WIP) always helps me  see things more objectively. I sometimes also move the painting to the living room and hang it above the mantle place, so I can really look at it from a distance, especially if it's a large piece like this one. (My studio is an extra bedroom and is too small to stand back and get a good perspective.)

So today, the painting was in the living room (LR) and this is when I noticed I was talking to myself. OUT LOUD.

"My eye gets stuck on that big pink thing....The painting on the left doesn't look like it belongs with the one on the right!....Maybe i should add more of those horizontal drippy marks....But I don't want to throw everything off balance and ruin it......ugh!....maybe just glaze over that pink thing to push it back.....the bottom of the left painting needs more going on....maybe if I get rid of that hazy gray area under the blue scribble.....that area needs more definition....."

Tell me what you think needs fixing. Thanks!