Editor’s note: When you’ve been teaching mixed-media art workshops for years like Jodi Ohl has, you come to hear some of the same questions from students, regardless of the location. Jodi, who travels the country sharing her knowledge in classes, is also a guest blogger with Cloth Paper Scissors, and today’s post features her second blog about student FAQs.
Jodi now has four mixed-media art workshops available on DVD, and lucky for you, they’re included in Interweave’s “3 DVDs for only $40” sale. Get your order in today before the sale ends, and take in Jodi’s advice on how to get through the most difficult stages of creating a painting. Don’t worry, friends, we’ve all been there! Lucky for us, we have experts like Jodi to inspire us to keep going. ~Cherie
FAQ: I Don’t Like My Painting. What Can I Do to Fix It? by Jodi Ohl
Over the last eight or nine years that I’ve been around the country working with mixed-media artists in the classroom, I’ve learned to anticipate this question, which arises several times during a workshop: “I don’t like my painting. What can I do to fix it?” There are times when a student will voice this out loud with a sigh of frustration (or worse), and at other times it’s whispered internally as the artist’s inner critic puts up a wall of doubt. The truth of the matter is that almost every artist experiences a struggle when working on their craft.
Painting is much like a relationship, in that we go through the initial exciting “dating stage” as we get started on this new journey. As artists, we’re full of anticipation about what is to come and are hopeful that it will turn out exactly as we desire. At some point in the relationship between artist and canvas we begin to doubt this is ever going to work. The interaction becomes messy. The journey takes twists and turns we hadn’t anticipated, and we’re not sure we like how it’s going.
Some artists stay loyal to the relationship and forge through the hard parts, while others take a much-needed break. Perhaps time and space will clear our heads, or at least give us a new direction to pursue. There will be moments when we start to fall back in love with our work. One simple change can act as a compromise to allow the flow to return to our dialogue. We understand each other once again. Just as quickly, it can fall apart. We’ve done something that disrupts the flow. We’ve inadvertently created tension in a place it didn’t belong. The future isn’t quite clear, until it is again.
Like a puzzle, a painting is hard to envision when the pieces aren’t fully put together. Clarity may not fully come until the work is nearly finished, and even at that point it may take more time to find. If you’re steadfast and stay in the relationship, you’ll realize that, while your doubt was somewhat justified in the middle, you simply weren’t finished. It was a work in progress, which can be unsettling.
As silly as this metaphor may seem, it really depicts how most artists feel while creating. The road to the end is not a linear path. There are many bumps, twists, turns, changes, and do-overs that may happen along the way. As an artist, only YOU can truly decide what your work needs. It may indeed need some fixing, but what I see isn’t necessarily what YOU think is missing or wrong.
Before throwing in the towel on your mixed-media art, consider these points. Keep in mind that this is just a small sampling of what you can do or ask yourself. I don’t think there’s a cookie-cutter solution for any artist but there certainly are some basic things you can consider when looking for ways to improve your art.
• Eliminate the words “hate” and “dislike” from your vocabulary. Voicing negativity gives power to your inner critic. Instead, believe you have what it takes to work through the rough spots without giving up or giving power to negativity.
• Take pictures of your work. It’s amazing what you may see through the lens that you can change to get you back on track.
• When in doubt, review a few of the main culprits that can derail a painting. Do you have enough values showcased, or ample contrast among colors, patterns, and/or shapes of your featured elements? If your work is lacking any of these components, you may find that addressing these design elements is a good place to start.
• Is the painting balanced or purposely imbalanced, symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is this what you intended? If not, take action to re-work your art to get it to the place you envisioned. Be flexible. Sometimes our initial visions can be enhanced by making even subtle changes. Trust your instincts.
• Use the right brushes for the job you’re doing. It’s amazing how many times artists will get frustrated because of less-than-ideal brush strokes, errant lines in their work, or the inability to create details. Evaluate the tools you’re using and make adjustments. Don’t use a large brush to do small work or a small brush to cover a large area. Start with your biggest brush first and work your way down to the smallest brush as you finish your painting. Likewise, use both round and flat brushes to blend or create sharp edges, respectively.
• Take a break and walk away for a bit. Don’t rush. Despite what many believe, painting is not a race to the finish line. It’s a journey.
• Turn your painting around several times as you work. By gaining a new perspective, you may find areas that could be enhanced.
• Lastly, keep practicing. You’ll gain confidence in knowing how to fix or finish your work the more you do the work. Remember, you have to work at the “relationship” to make it successful.
For more words of wisdom and advice for working through the rough spots so you can complete paintings from start to finish, check out one or more of my four new mixed-media art DVDs through Interweave! ~Jodi
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