On a whim the other day, I decided to film myself painting at the easel. I hadn’t done it before, since I prefer to film my videos working flat so there’s a minimum amount of me and a maximum amount of you seeing what I’m doing.

However my most natural way of working is standing at the easel, especially when working large, so I thought I’d give it a go in the interests of doing something new and of showing a bit more of how I make art when it’s just for me.

I had a notion of creating a video of me in the studio and talking about my work for my About page, as a way to help you get a better idea of me beyond a faceless voice or a bundle of words in a blog post.

Let’s just say that idea is currently on hold.

However, it’s not the nature of the video that I’m sharing today {although obviously you get that as a byproduct}; it’s the evolution of a painting that not only went wrong, but that couldn’t be rectified.

I went back and forth about sharing this as it feels quite uncomfortably vulnerable, and yet it’s a very real part of what being an artist is like. And since some of my core values are experimentation, transparency and using myself as a real life example, {is that a value?} well, it feels worth sharing.

Let me just set the scene a little so you know what’s supposed to be happening. 🙂

The idea was to work from an image I found on my Painting Inspiration board on Pinterest, as a vehicle for trying out an approach that involved charcoal and paint. You may know that I’m very interested in what I call ‘abstractifying’; I wanted to see how I might use my landscape reference image and make it my own. I worked on paper as this was the first time I’d attempted it; I was also in the mood to work large and in portrait rather than my usual square.

To say things did not go as I had hoped is an understatement. In the end I wrote it off. I do try not to as it’s often a good challenge to push a painting as far as you can, which is what I did here, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. And that is an essential part of making art; allowing yourself to let go when it doesn’t work, and to not attach so rigidly to your original idea that you can’t allow a painting to go where it wants to go. Especially since this can often far exceed what you’d imagined.

So, enjoy my studio – I want to say ‘disaster’, but it isn’t really of course. Let’s just call it my exercise in non attachment. 🙂

{I’ve speeded it up and edited it with notes about what’s happening so you can follow my thought processes; it would’ve been way too long and boring otherwise. }

I want to be very clear about this – I do not consider this a failure, a sign that I’m not an artist after all and should give up, or that I wasted materials. I know these are common feelings; my hope is that demonstrating that it’s ok to eff up a painting {or several!} will go some way to helping you give yourself permission to do the same. The ‘secret’ is that it’s actually an essential part of the process, not a reason to quit.

I am aware ~ from many years of sharing my work online and having people respond to it ~ that it’s possible you may not see why I wasn’t happy with this. One person’s hideous mess is another’s thing of beauty. For me this painting didn’t work, not just because it didn’t match my vision, but because it FELT very wrong. If you like it, great! No judgement either way.

There is always – always – something to be learned from our so called mistakes, whether in or out of the studio. What did I learn?

  • That I love to mix paint with charcoal.
  • That it has to be done with care or it does end up more muddy than I’d like.
  • That I don’t like drawing ‘things that look like things’; in this case I found my drawing of the lighthouse and buildings twee and lacking in finesse or the look I hoped for.
  • That I love a high horizon line but I have more to learn to make it work well in portrait.
  • That gesso is not the answer to everything. {Heh.}
  • That I am nevertheless very interested in further exploring mixing landscape with abstract elements.

And many more subtle and nuanced things that I won’t list, but you get the idea. And best of all is that final point, because it means this painting has become a springboard for something new for me. And I love new. 🙂

I’d love to hear your perspective on this! What was it like to watch the video as someone who isn’t me? {I find it very uncomfortable so I’d love to hear whether you felt that too.} What do you do with paintings that don’t work out? Do you tend to know early on that’s it not going to work out, or do you find persevering worth it? We are all so different in our desires and needs {even while we’re all so similar}, I’d love to hear about your experiences. 


Creative Spark Ecourse The Creative Spark ecourse is now available with instant access! If you would love to entertain and explore the notion that you have an artistic self that’s longing to come out, or simply that you can make art you love, I’d be delighted to welcome you to this six week gently paced journey.

Click the image on the left to find out all the details, and feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have. And don’t forget, when you register, you will be invited to join the private Facebook group for all my course participants; self paced doesn’t have to mean doing it alone. 🙂