when to abandon?

I’ve been thinking a lot about abandoning a painting before it is finished.

Some years ago I used to paint out (cover with white paint) almost everything I painted. Then I took a workshop from Tony Urquhart who advised us to wait until the next morning to paint things out. He said that often in the night the good fairies come and fix up the painting and that in the morning the painting can turn out to be surprisingly good.

Now I stick with paintings for quite awhile. I think the moment when I want to abandon a painting is not when it is difficult but when it bores me, when I just feel indifferent. Sometimes that is hard to distinguish.


This is a new start. Last week’s painting is on the back side of the plywood, not painted out yet, still waiting for the good fairies.


14 responses to “when to abandon?

  1. I usually look at it for a couple of days and if there’s no spark, I put it away for a couple of weeks. If I still feel indifferent, it gets gessoed or torn up for collage.

    • Thanks Elena, this is what I do too, I look at it and work on it a bit, if no excitement then I turn it to the wall. In a few weeks things may seem different and if not, it gets painted out…

  2. I always take pictures of them before I paint over or destroy them. That way it doesn’t hurt quite so bad. Sometimes, years later I regret that I’ve destroyed them.

    • Thanks Anita, I take photos too and sometimes I do regret painting some out, but not too usually. I often wait until I need some new canvases and then I pick my least exciting dud to paint over.

  3. Annerose, we were taught that there is always a stage where you hate it 😉
    Push through and see where it takes you… set it aside for a while and then decide 😀

    • Thanks Robyn for that good advice. I agree that every painting has a stage where you really don’t think things will work and it’s important to not give the painting up too soon. I do try to stick with all the paintings through that hard uncomfortable time and sometimes things turn out. And setting a painting aside to wait for the good fairies is also a good idea!

  4. There is also the reverse side of this issue too. Have you ever just “fallen in love” with a work in progress only to return to it when the infatuation has passed and decide there was less there than you originally thought?

    • Oh yes, I sometimes think a painting is going fantastic and when I return the next day, I’m surprised at un-fantastic it actually is. That is sort of what happened here, I just couldn’t get its magic back. I did paint it out…

  5. Not as much of a problem with watercolor 😉 there’s the old (not quite) joke that it takes two to make a painting – the artist and the person to shoot the artist before they overdo it

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