Haste, Balance and Adjustments

“Hobby Horse Dreams”
Watercolor 18 x 24 inches

Today, just as I am readying to depart to an NWS board of directors meeting, I kept noticing that I had a problem with my last painting.

This time of year is always difficult for me because it is a time of hurrying to complete many things in short time allotments. Open Studio at my home will be held October 9,10 and 16,17. The haste to accomplish all the framing and preparations to make that event happen without hitches is always a challenge.
As usual, I framed pieces I have painted in the last year. This piece, which you saw in the last post, was standing in its frame in our living room . . . . . .and while it stood there, it was as if a big hook and yelling voice was attempting to catch me. The piece was out of balance!
See the last post and observe the left 1/4 of the painting. That area was morose, dark and the only area like it in the painting. That area seemed as though it did not belong with the rest of the painting (striving for unity!). Also, the white shape seemed to be too far biased to the right . . .that is most of the weight of the shape was on the right. Something needed to happen to this piece! Something subtle yet effective enough to upset the current unbalanced nature of the piece.
I had to remove it from the frame, mat, glass etc. Then it had to go back to the easel for adjustments and some needed new elements of line. You can see the vertical / oblique wavy lines were added . . .but no change in balance. The Blue ‘dart’ was added to help direct the eye, but the piece was still out of balance. ( I wasn’t just guessing. I knew what had to happen: the left quarter needed a hint of white to pull the eye back toward the left and to compensate for the right biased weight of the big white shape.) The lines and dart were needed elements for interest.
Darn! Wasted time! Not really.
Having learned the hard way too many times, it seems to me that a good painter never rushes to conclusions in finalizing any painting . . . pending shows or whatever the reason. I have, several times, framed paintings and put them in a show only to be embarassed by what I completely missed seeing. Good paintings need time to be digested and reconsidered. More often than not, after a few weeks of resting, a painting will reveal its inner workings and problems as the painter relaxes from the angst of the act of painting. I believe this to be part of the natural order of making art. You just cannot rush it. Many students find they cannot paint well in workshops. This is part of the reason. Good composition requires reflection, observation and thought. . . . . . and not just for a few minutes. Those tiny adjustments can often make or break a painting. And they may not reveal themselves for long periods. It is a matter of being patient and letting the mind dwell quietly on the composition. The painting process is not always won by the swift, but to those who remain in the struggle to compose carefully.
Moral: Put your pieces up in a corner where you can see them for an extended period before the “Finished” declaration is made.

7 thoughts on “Haste, Balance and Adjustments”

  1. Excellent advice. It's an interesting topic as I think that while blogging has done a huge amount for art, it has also led many of us to rush our paintings in the urge to get them online before day's end and, perhaps, become a bona fide 'Daily Painter'. I'm a big fab of James Neil Hollingsworth's approach, to have a full week of themed paintings then a break from blogging. He's clearly creating the 'one-a-day' paintings for the next theme week during this 'break'. This allows him to have spurts of regular activity on his blog under the eBay daily painting model while also affording hm the time to paint some excellent, well thought-out pieces. We should certainly all take a leaf from each of your books. Best of luck with open studio preparations!

  2. Your advice is solid, Mike, and I, too, have brought paintings home from a show only to see something, weeks or months later, that is so off I'm amazed I didn't catch it earlier. There are times when the piece isn't salvageable, but it's still a learning experience to self-critique.

  3. great post, as usual! I make great use of the curing shed, I need to get them out sight for a while. best is when I forget about them completely and find months later. like wine, they either improve or go totally sour. the sour ones sell! hehe

  4. "it seems to me that a good painter never rushes to conclusions in finalizing any painting…"

    I think that's only a maybe. Concepts of perfection and rightness vary and there will always be something missed that could have been better. The last 1% of tiny tweaks can easily take up 90% of the time, so deadlines even artificial ones and a time to say "enough!" and accept remaining flaws can radically improve efficiency.

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