The Ugly Stage
Have you ever been in the middle of a painting and thought to yourself, “this is really ugly“? Well, you are probably right.
I know that sounds mean, but just about every painting has an ugly painting stage. It is usually right after you have done your under-painting and blocked in your lights, darks and midtones.
There is no colour and very little form but remember, you still have to add those things. Your painting is probably not ugly, it just isn’t finished.
You are at the ugly stage of a painting.
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Tips To Help You Work Through That Ugly Stage In Your Painting
1. Step Away From the Canvas
Sometimes when we are too close to a situation we can’t see the big picture. The same is true for a painting.
Step back, get some perspective and see where you need to add colour, shadows and highlights and smaller details to make the painting balanced and complete.
Often a painting looks much better and closer to the effect you intended when you step away from it. After all, a viewer will not be looking at your painting as closely as you will.
2. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Strokes
Use your cell phone to take a picture of your progress. For some reason you get a better view of your painting from a picture.
I take multiple pictures while I’m working. Pictures not only help me see where adjustments need to be made, but they also act as a visual record of my progress.
Progress photos are also a great way to engage your fans on social media. People love to see the artists work in progress and this could lead to more sales of your work.
For more information about taking pictures of your artwork see Simple Tips to Photograph Your Art
3. Turn That Frown Upside Down
Turning your canvas upside down helps you to see the actual shapes you are painting rather than be overwhelmed by the whole scene.
Now, instead of painting a landscape, you are painting angles, ovals, circles and squares. Everything is a combination of various shapes cohesively put together.
4. It’s Time for a Coffee Break
Sometimes the best thing is to step away from a painting for a few hours or even a few days. Come back and view it with fresh eyes.
You may see it differently after a little time away and have new ideas and a new perspective on what you are painting.
Your body needs a break too. Stiff necks and cramped hands make the whole process more difficult and less enjoyable. A few minutes of stretching or a walk around the block will make you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your painting again.
5. Look at Your Painting in Black and White
Take a picture of your painting and edit it to make it black and white. You will be able to see if your darks and lights are correct when compared to your reference photo.
If you take a picture on your phone it is easy to use your cameras photo editor to edit it quickly to give you a black and white photo.
A little adjustment in value can make all the difference in a painting. ( See my post on Value)
6. Start Something New
Working on a new piece gives you a break from worrying about getting the first one right. You may get new ideas or new inspiration from working on something else for a while.
I often have several pieces going at once and usually in different mediums. I find it keeps my creativity flowing and keeps the frustration down.
7. You are Painting the Wrong Piece
That sounds a little odd, but sometimes the painting we have in our head is not what our hands produce.
One of my most popular paintings, pictured below, started out this way. I did not have this idea in my head when I started but it turned into something wonderful.
Sometimes you just have to let a painting happen.
8. Last Resort
If your painting is done in acrylics and you absolutely cannot salvage it, you can always gesso over it and start again. Do not use acrylic gesso over an oil painting. Acrylic gesso is water based and oil and water do not mix. Instead try using a neutral colour or earth tone to cover what you have already done. You could also use an oil based gesso to cover your original painting.
Make sure your oil painting is dry before painting over it. You don’t want to have weird mud toned surface to paint on. It is probably best to store an oil painting in a closet for a few months until it is reasonably dry before attempting to paint over it.
Remember, even the great masters painted over their paintings.
I hope these tips helped you get past the ugly stage of a painting. All artists go through this and as you get more experience you will realize this is what is happening and not stress over it.
Painting should be fun and relaxing. A way to escape into your own artistic world.
If you would like more inspiration and ideas join out Facebook group Trembeling Art Creative Corner. It’s a great place to chat with other artists, post your work, ask questions and get tips and ideas.
Thanks for reading.