Holding My Breath…Learning When To Stop Working On A Painting

I have times when I feel like I should abandon a work because I can’t quite figure out what it needs next, or how to approach it….or if it’s even worth it. Sometimes I keep going and end up totally messing things up when really what I should be doing is getting some distance and perspective on the piece.

Over the weekend, I was pretty sick. That forced “rest” meant no visiting the studio to see how “bad” things were in my mind with this work…and no chance to make a mistake out of impatience or indecision.

Not only did my body benefit from the rest, so did my mental attitude towards the work and I felt a bit more confidence in my approach to the painting this morning.

After a day’s good rest in bed, I hobbled upstairs to find “The Artist’s Daughter” not quite as poorly as I thought it at the last pass. In a couple of short hours of painting, I was able to bring it to a point today where I’m pleased and can clearly see the next few steps to get to the vision in my head for this piece.

Here’s where I’m at today and now I’m taking another rest, having learned my lesson.

"The Artist's Daughter" Work in Progress. Day 3. ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen panel. 18"x14"
"The Artist's Daughter" Work in Progress. Day 3. ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen panel. 18"x14"

To have a look at the progressions to this point, visit these related posts:

The Toughest Critic

The Artist’s Daughter – Day 1 (Video)

The Artist’s Daughter – Day 2 (Video)

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Janet Vanderhoof

    Yes, we are our toughest critic. Too, you probably didn’t feel well so nothing seemed right. But, it is gorgeous and full of exquisite promise.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Thanks Janet. Even with the not feeling well, there was still this desire to either pitch it or stay with it through the wee hours of the night. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling to me in the process of each painting. I’m glad of the rest. And yes…we are always our worst critics (enemies and fans!)

  2. Franziska San Pedro

    Hi Janice,

    that was a good decision! It’s beautiful 🙂
    I’ve put paintings aside, sometimes even several months and then looked at them again and started out fresh with new inspiration.


  3. Jack Disbrow

    @JanTanton saw Via @EvelynMcCPeters – wish I new how to get those skin tones!
    My high school art teacher many years ago said that it takes two artists to paint a master piece – the one doing the painting and the other standing behind the painter with a hammer – ready to… when the painting is done.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Hey Jack – great observation by your high school art teacher! Perhaps I’ll do a demo and post on the skin tones sometime. The work is yet unfinished, so there is still quite a bit of “pop” yet to be had in the fleshtones. Thanks for visiting!

  4. Linda Hugues

    Yes. Absolutely. When I’m mentally clear, I’m painting to accomplish a specific goal, even if I don’t know how to do it. When I’m not, I’m just hoping something good will happen, which rarely does. That’s when I need to take a break. I find the mental focus required of good painting to be hard to sustain for more than a few hours. :o)

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