Painting is an act of creativity and intention, but it sometimes,
many times, includes acts of destruction large and small. It may be that the
one skill that separates the dedicated professional artist from the amateur is
the willingness to destroy, obliterate or remove those beautifully painted
parts of a painting that, in the artist's judgement, must be changed in order
to make the painting work as a whole. The temptation to fall in love with a
beautifully painted passage and then hang on to it even when it interferes with
the success of the work is completely understandable. Discovering how to paint well is hard
work, and going backward to move forward is perhaps not a natural inclination
for many of us.
|Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent, 1885-86, oil painting, 68 x 60.
John Singer Sargent used to scrape out areas that he
was not happy with and repaint them in order to get his famous bravura
brushstrokes in the finish. It's all about doing whatever is necessary in order
to work at the highest level. This is a tough lesson for most of us to learn,
but a valuable one. In an interview with Thomas Paquette for The Artist's Road,
Thomas made the observation that he also goes through extensive revisions of
his paintings as he develops them, a process he calls the "phoenix effect,"
which he states adds immeasurably to the richness and the look of the finished
The other skill that many artists employ is the
development of multiple preparatory sketches, drawings and paintings before
they begin work on what will be the finished work. However, no amount of prep
work can guarantee that everything will go as planned in the larger piece, and
knowing that, embracing that, is an attitude which can ultimately lead to
better paintings. It is wonderful to love what we do, but dangerous to love
everything we do.
We hope you'll join us
on The Artist's Road for more
interesting articles, interviews and step-by-step painting instructions.
--John and Ann