Patience and Faith in Art… don’t throw it away!

"Journey Through a Town", detail, work in progress, acrylic, Karen Gillis Taylor 2014

“Journey Through a Town”, detail, work in progress, acrylic, Karen Gillis Taylor 2014, click for larger view.

I’ve been working to finish four paintings simultaneously for my art show in April. (Maybe it really is a little crazy, you might be thinking?) I thought I was going to finish this one, “Journey Through a Town”, today. All of a sudden I put on the brakes. Finishing each painting takes time, and it’s always worth it to do it right. (How did I not already know that?)

So I threw away my self-imposed pressure of completing the painting quickly, and am free to enjoy the finishing process, which is often the most joyous and satisfying of painting. Why would I rob myself of this rewarding part of my process just  to save time? (head thump.)

I had a pastor once who said, “There is always time to do the really important things in life.” Simple bit of true wisdom. Another gift for freedom away from stress. I take that one to my day job in publishing all the time! Keep it going in the painting studio, Karen.

Working tips: I saved an earlier photo version of this painting a few sessions ago. I could see what I had liked about the painting in early stages, and yet what was lacking. This helps me when painting with acrylic layers. Sometimes a second session’s good points get covered over, but you can regain a few positive effects if you have a record. I often tape a print of the photo next to my easel for comparison’s sake.

Comparing roughs and finals is a practice I have developed over many years of painting and illustration/graphic design work. We also did this in the darkroom with traditional print photography. “Slow and steady wins the race”, as the old adage goes.

I also took the time to try out different small brush sizes, and the effect of flats, rounds and filberts in the small size for detail work. (Each creates that different shape of the stroke of paint.) Good reminder lesson for me!

Sometimes it does seem like it’s all in the details, as someone once said. Not at the beginning, but at the end. At this finishing point, brush strokes matter more. This principle crosses over to the other visual arts: quiltmaking, photography, sculpture, to name a few. Work from the general to the more specific. Get the first design right, but then pay attention to the ending details.

Oh, and just remember to wash out those brushes when you finish for the night… she reminded herself. Waking up to a rock-hard brush on the taboret is like burning the stew. Only worse!

Comments always welcome… Do you ever rush through life and wish you had stopped yourself a day or two ago? I’m learning the importance of just breathing in more deeply now and then. Taking breaks. It’s hard when you have been a little “driven” all your life. Someone give me an “amen, sister”!  smiles   -Karen


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6 Responses to “Patience and Faith in Art… don’t throw it away!”

  1. Helen DeRamus Says:

    Finishing a painting can be a long process, totally agree. The “first blush” of a painting can be so satisfying that I want to declare it finished and then coming into the studio I find I have not reached that critical point when I know there is nothing left to be done. Sometimes it is hard to know especially if you have that desire to create something fresh. Overworking is so easy if not careful.


    • karen Says:

      Helen, I agree with all you say! Keeping the freshness while taking it to finish is such a challenge. It’s nice if you can “sleep on it” and see the work with fresh eyes the next day.


  2. Leslie Ann Clark Says:

    I too must remember to work on Patience. To send art to my agent too quickly always seems to return a rejection. I get so excited to be done I jump the gun. Still learning after all these years!


  3. magicinthewoods Says:

    Very exciting image! I love your colours and your style. As for finishing, I’ve developed a good formula for myself: work en plein air. The painting is finished when it’s time to go home. I find that trying to make “corrections” in the studio the next day often ruined it and I wished I had left it alone.


    • karen Says:

      Hi Magic- working en plein air is definitely a commitment to finishing! I learned that in a class with Don Ward in Taos, my first intensive plein air experience, since I’m mainly a studio painter. Your formula is a great answer to the challenge of finding the best finish to a painting. Sometimes the “corrections” in the studio do work. Other times, well, it can be sad! Thanks for your comment, so helpful to us all.


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