I think this is a universal for all artist. There are times of great struggle when one is creating. I have been painting for a long time, no idea as to how many paintings I have completed over the years. At this point in my career there is one big difference from when I first started and that is confidence. No mater how messed up it seems at times I know I will fight the painting into submission, I know this simply by experience, not formal education, not talking to other artists, simply by doing. Thoughts on this?
What maturing has taught me is this: When it sucks, it sucks, and the only rational place for it is in the garbage. I don't think twice. No matter how hard I've worked on it, how hard I've tried to sculpt it into an acceptable form, taste, function, ... if, after all this, my gut level feeling or experience is that it sucks, then, hello trash -- I toss it, let it go, no looking back, no regrets -- it's done, over, finished, the end, time to start over.
Most watercolor pieces go through an awfully ugly phase. I'm used to that by now.
I've worked things to death and managed to save them.
And I 've worked things to death and they unfortunately suffered too long for naught.
Experience has taught me not to waste time working on a piece that I have lost my passion for. It becomes scrap to practice on.
Life is just too short to waste going in directions that do not feel right.
I would say that most mistakes have been turned in to a new technique though.
It's paint, you can usually cover just about anything up.
There are photographs I've tried to edit several times before I finally had to admit they were dogs. But when I finally admit it, I may stick the words "mary only" on the end of the file name so I can keep them and look at them once in a while and remain in denial that they are just not salvageable.
The painting process is very much like sighting in a rifle scope. First you shoot, not knowing exactly where the bullet will actually hit. Then you examine the hole on the target and make adjustments on the scope in the direction of accuracy,... and repeat until it is true. It is not a mistake to miss the target. It is an absolutely necessary part of getting the rifle scope set true and accurate. It can not be done any other way. The same is true for painting. First, you lay some paint down. then you examine it to see if it is true or not. It most likely isn't. Then you adjust to correct the flaws and repeat until it is true. Only with a painting, every square inch has to be zeroed in from scratch. And with a painting, it is not just accuracy of location that is important. How every single spot relates to every other spot in the whole design is important. Color, value, line, shape, texture, form and space... all the elements of design in every location of the painting has to work and be appropriate with every other spot of the painting for the entire piece to work. The most important part part of painting is done without the brush in hand. It is the part when you examine it for mistakes to find what is not true so you can adjust it until it is. Painting is accomplished by making "mistakes," examining what is wrong, and correcting them until they are right. One must do this one aspect of the painting at a time until the entire painting comes into proper focus and alignment. Therefore, mistakes are not mistakes at all. They tell you where to go to accomplish your aim. They are an absolutely necessary aspect of doing a painting right, and therefore should not be criticized as some form of incompetence. You can not sight in a rifle with one shot.
For me, the definition of sucks means more often than not, lousy light. I've often revisited a photograph composition multiple times looking for the right light before I press the shutter. I actually have several photographs that I waited for a year to reshoot (Equinoxes & Solstices).
"Experience has taught me not to waste time working on a piece that I have lost my passion for. It becomes scrap to practice on."
I have found that when it reaches this point of practice... that's when it has come to the place of possible restoration. A new freedom sets in when that door opens. The limitation of "caring too much" can be an awful nag!
Years ago I was in Cape Town SA and I did a plein air watercolor of the bay. It was heavy and clumsy. When I returned to San Diego I look hard at it and threw it into a drawer. Some months later I took it out and threw it into the trash. The next day I fished it out and reworked it. Not long ago I was contacted by complete strangers who wanted to feature it in a retrospective.
To clarify, ... with painting, I could usually just cover up the endless disaster and start all over, on top of the crap. With pencil drawing, the paper could ultimately break down with holes and smudges that could not be worked over, and so trash was the only option. With photography, yeah, "delete" button -- so easy to say "bye bye" there.
With cake baking ... trash, because there is no unbaking a cake -- you have to start all over again. I trashed three cakes in a row one time, before I got it right.