Monday, August 17

Four Stages of Painting a Picture

Baltimore Harbor
Acrylic on Paper
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2009
While working on several recent paintings, I noticed I go through several stages throughout the process (or is that ordeal?). The stages you go through while you’re painting are not totally unlike the stages of grief—shock, denial, acceptance, recovery—although hopefully not as sad. 

I pinpointed the four stages I go through, although I had a tough time in coming up with names for each stage. To lighten things up, I decided to go with the metaphor of children’s stories to describe each of the four stages of painting a picture.

Here we go:

Stage 1 – The “When You Wish Upon A Star” Stage
This is the light and airy phase when you’ve selected the perfect motif and can’t wait to get going. Anything is possible, and your artwork is going to be the best ever. Art critics will sit up and take notice, for sure!

Nothing can stop you from delivering your best work. In your head, you envision your work bathed in the bright lights of acclaim and glory. In your heart you know you have everything it takes to become a great, or at least an acknowledged, artist.

I also call this the “Monet” phase because I always think my work will somehow look like one of Monet’s beautiful, shimmering masterpieces and become recognized as his were.

Hey, I can dream and make that wish at this stage.

Stage 2 – The “Little Engine That Could” Stage

At this point, some reality has set in, and you can see that you’re in it for the long haul. You’ve got the major elements blocked in, so far so good, but you begin to notice the more difficult items that will take all of your attention in the very near future.

You have to tell yourself that you really are up to this task, “I think I can, I think I can…”

This is the time when you have to climb that hill and keep going and going.

Stage 3 – The “Ugly Duckling” Stage

I think this is the hardest and the most surprising phase, because it creeps up on you so unexpectedly, at least when you’re an inexperienced artist.

You’re probably more than half-way finished with the painting, and you tell yourself, “Okay, this is progressing just fine.” Then, for some reason you step back to get some perspective and a good look, and OMG! What is this mess I’m creating?

Nothing looks right. The colors are not harmonious and the contrast is all wrong and it’s just all out of whack. This is when you have to get a grip, just get a grip on the whole situation. You need to realize this is normal, really it is.

Perseverance is the key. You’re hitting the wall, but you have to go through it. And so you do.

Stage 4 – The “Cinderella” Stage

In this final stage, things become resolved, and the pieces fall into perfect place. Your work has transformed from a poor, unremarkable piece into a beautiful work of art that everyone admires. Just when you think it’s all for naught, your aspirations are realized.

And they all lived happily ever after…


1 comment:

  1. Haha! I love that, the ugly duckling stage! That's when I put the brush down and tell myself I'll fix it tomorrow.