Tear it up and walk away

The image accompanying this post is the result of weeks of self-torture as a result of being far too precious about an artwork. Sometimes, you just got to walk away.

The idea is sound. In fact, the idea is the first of a planned series of detailed drawings inspired by solitary rocks in a sea of sand. This one, however, almost from the very first pencil stroke, simply wasn’t working.

You might think that being comfortable with the concept, the composition, the prep sketches, the tonal range, the choice of materials, that the work might be little more than slugging it out. Instead, I found myself avoiding the drawing, seeking reasons not to work on it, sneering at its audacity to thwart my creative plans.

Every creative work

It is true that all creative works go through a discomforting, dissatisfied phase so some degree. This can often come to the work’s benefit: the struggle to recover what threatens to be lost is a great motivator.

With heavy-medium paintings (oils, acrylics, even pastels, etc.) earlier work can be covered, re-covered, scraped, overpainted, even sanded away. But this becomes almost impossible when forced to work almost exclusively light-to-dark. Drawings and wash watercolour are particularly difficult to recover in this way.

To some extent that is the appeal of both drawing and watercolour. The challenge presented by the knowledge that every stroke has a near-permanent influence on the final result. Recovery is limited and can never be entirely hidden.

Sometimes it just has to go

Now and then, the connection with the piece is simply missing. Often caused by early decisions in materials, style, or lacking prep. Sometimes more esoteric, with an inappropriate or too-tentative an emotional connection with the initial inspiration.

In the case of this particular drawing, it is a little of all those elements. Something was amiss from the start, and no amount of applied effort was going to bring this particular idea to a satisfactory conclusion. Cue the bin.

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