I really don't think this can be said enough: keep working. If you are discouraged, keep working. If you feel unsure about your work, your skills, your subject matter, your "talent", your technique, your materials...whether your work will ever be lauded, accepted, understood, liked--or even whether it will ever be seen by anyone other than your close friends and family--
Your work won't make itself. If you have doubts, you cannot get better by staring at your easel, your desk, your computer, or your workbench.
Your work will only improve if you improve it!
Over the last week, Ive been working on "The Presentation of Spiders". Yes, I have kept hope alive for more than a year that I could finish this painting, and that it would be good, would not look "overworked", and that I would like it.
If you've been following this blog for a bit, you know that I started the piece as a Grisaille, intending to create a complete black-and-white rendering of the piece, and then glaze transparent colours over that, to complete the painting.
Those plans didn't exactly work out, and Ive often had serious reservations about the painting over the last year.
Over the weekend (starting Friday night) Ive nearly completed the second figure, and greatly improved the hands on the middle figure.
My "breakthrough" moment came when I realized that I had been conceptualizing myself as an "indirect" painter--and in trying to force myself to paint a certain way, I wasn't serving the painting...not at all!
Now, I am (primarily) a "studio painter". I am (primarily) a slow painter, and I am (primarily) an indirect painter.
But, the idea that I should paint only in transparent layers past a certain point, was really frustrating to me...was truly holding me back. People (yes, including artists!) love to simplify things, and we love to label. It's easy to describe ourselves using simple sound-bites ("direct" painter; en plein aire painter; paint from life, figurative, portrait, conceptual, etc. It's easier to use "accepted", "generally-understood" labels to try to explain our work to our audience, to other artists, to our friends...anyone who shows an interet in what we, as artists, do.
For years, I've thought of myself as an "indirect" painter--someone who paints in multiple layers of (primarily transparent) oil paint, instead of as a "direct painter", working in a single (generally opaque, generally working "wet-into-wet") layer, creating paintings (again, generally) in a single sitting.
But, unpacking these labels, their oversimplification is obvious.
I do work in layers, but Im just as likely to layer opaque paints over my earlier efforts, as I am to apply transparent colour. I'm just as likely to want my brushstrokes to show, as I am to blend them into nothingness using sable fan brushes.
The truth is, I'm all over the place--and it's a place where few, if any, single-concept labels apply. Sections of a painting might be painted in a single layer, while other sections in the same painting might be paints in dozens. Large areas might be painted "from life"--or from photos--while other sections are worked entirely from imagination.
So, the painting is proceeding in layers, but the layers aren't all-opaque or all-transparent--they are going to be whatever they need to be, to get this painting finished in a way that satisfies me, and gives me the look I want. And to hell with trying to stay within the confines of an arbitrary ("pure"--which should have been my first warning!) conception if how to paint.
The key is, I didn't "discover" my error by contemplation or study, but by working; working to solve a particular problem in this painting, working to compete an area on this piece, to move the piece along, to carry it forward, further towards completion.
So, whatever the problem, stopping working cannot possibly help.
Whatever you do, keep working!