Daily Painting and Failure, er, Set Back

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“Hmmm” 6×6, oil on gessoboard, $75 [button link=”http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/denise-hopkins/hmmm/233153″ type=”big”] Buy Now[/button]

I’ve been focusing on commissions and my daily paintings have become fewer and fewer.  I still paint them, but now that April is over, I don’t feel the need (compulsion?) to post paintings I’m not satisfied with, and, looking back, there are a few April paintings I wish I’d reworked before calling them done (and some I’ve since reworked a bit).  I love the discipline, limits, and freedom of a painting a day, but I’m also happy to have breaks to look away from an image for a while without feeling like I’ve failed.  Failure.  That awful word I constantly revisit and try, desperately, to replace with “set-back”.  

I’ve been wanting to do some figurative work for a while now, but it’s work that challenges me in a way the birds don’t and instead of picking up a brush I’ve been “pinteresting” figure paintings I enjoy, hoping one of them will eventually strike a chord or just flat out motivate me to give it a go. Because after painting daily for thirty days, I know I paint better.  I still have set backs, but I’ve learned more about painting by painting for one to two hours a day for thirty days than I did painting one to two times a month for ten years.

The commissioned piece currently on my easel is one I care a lot about– a bit more complex than my usual commissions.  The plan is for it to involve some loose figures in the background so I decided to do a little figure study in preparation.  It was going really well.  I loved blocking out the shapes of the body and face rather than focusing on features.  It’s a lesson I tried to teach my students but perhaps hadn’t mastered myself– that is not a nose.  It is light, medium, dark.  It is a funny triangle  and a wonky circle.

But eventually I lost it, and there was a moment of decision:  keep going?  save it for tomorrow?  Scrape it?  Fortunately, I’d listened to an interview with Duane Keiser on the Savvy Painter Podcast earlier that day and he’d mentioned how many paintings he throws out, how many times he starts over.  I ran my brush through an hour’s worth of work without the slightest regret, stared at my newly greyed panel and hoped for a better tomorrow.  If one of the most prominent contemporary painters can have a failed painting, who am I, to hold onto something that’s clearly not progressing?

That better tomorrow was today, and I revisited the same image on that grey panel.  It’s still not perfect proportionally or even compositionally but I love the color, shapes, impression.  I’m looking forward to more figure paintings in the future.  Hoping to set out on the town and not worry about the funny looks I might get from people whose picture I might snap before they can realize what I’m doing.

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

May 22, 2014

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