Revisiting failed painting attempts

I posted recently about how I had a bad painting day, and had to abandon a painting I had started.

This happens from time to time, and it’s important not to get upset about it. Even failed attempts can be useful as long as you learn something from them (sometimes you may not even realise you learnt anything!)

If you’re struggling with a particular subject, it’s probably wise to take a break and try a new subject, but it can also be interesting to keep that subject on the back-burner and maybe give it another try at a later date.

Here’s an oil study I did this past weekend (oils on 8×10″ canvas):


There are things I could have done better, but overall I was pretty happy with how this turned out, not least of all because I’d tried to paint the same scene several months before and failed miserably.

I don’t normally post images of my failed painting attempts, but in the interests of learning, here’s the recent study (right), next to the original failed attempt (left):


As you can see, I didn’t get very far with the first attempt, before cutting my losses and throwing it on the pile.

I think what went wrong with the inital painting was mainly down to rushing the inital stages, and lack of planning. I just wasn’t careful enough in the drawing stage and it just wasn’t going well from the start.

In the recent study, I spent some time carefully placing the figure and the surrounding elements early on, to make sure I had a good foundation to build on.

Coincidentally, the God’s Window study I did the other week was also a second try at a scene I had failed to paint earlier.

Here it is (on the bottom) with two previous failed attempts above:


The first one (top-left) was supposed to be a very small colour study, but I got the value relationships all wrong, as well as making everything too saturated with green. I should have stopped there, but for some reason I decided to continue with the larger study (top-right). The values were closer here, but I messed the colours up, and you can see how the distant planes are all slightly different hues as you go back – green, brown, blue – it just doesn’t make sense.

Again, I didn’t spend long on these before giving up, but fortunately, in my recent attempt (bottom) I seem to have a better grasp on the value relationships required to give an effective sense of atmospheric perspective.

I don’t know if I learnt anything from these failed attempts themselves, but if nothing else, it’s encouraging to look back at them and know that I got there in the end!

If you do have a bad painting day (or three), I’d encourage you to keep your failed attempts so you can look back at them if you try the same painting again at a later date.







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