Ideas to Rescue Failed Paintings

Sometimes it happens that our art works don’t turn out the way we first imagined, and despite every attempt, it just has to be admitted –it’s a failure!

You consider tossing it, ripping the canvas from the framework or even painting over it. “It’s just too overworked” you cry, or “it doesn’t say anything,” or “it’s too bland!”

Don’t despair – in this week’s post, I offer a few suggestions on ways to save your failed art works and give them a new lease on life!

Although we wouldn’t do all of these ideas on a Watercolour or Pastel painting, some of them can be implemented. I am not dealing too much with composition errors here, but simply ways to improve an existing piece. So read these ideas and try one or even a few!

1)    Colour – Brightening up the colours always adds zest and vibrancy to a painting. Try using thin translucent washes to glaze over the existing paint to enliven the picture as well as adding a luminosity to the work.

2)   Simplification – assess the piece and determine if the composition is well-balanced. If it appears too busy, you could paint out some of the elements to create a more balanced and simpler piece with fewer elements.

3)   Add texture – texture can be created in many ways; paper, plaster, Impasto technique, etc and adds interest to an art piece. One could even salvage a Watercolour painting this way by adhering an overlay of a sheet of rice paper and painting in areas in a delicate wash, or by tearing some of the rice paper off around the edges, or just here and there. I have seen this overlay give a completely new, almost ethereal feel to a Watercolour painting. On Oil and Acrylic works, one can even cover unsightly areas of the painting with a texture and then paint over it when it’s dry.

4)   Big Brush – take the biggest brush you can find, (even a house painting brush) and sweep your glazes over the work in loose and bold brushstrokes. You will be amazed! You can also use a palette knife, or even the spatula from your kitchen to add those fabulous sweeps of colour!

5)   Load on the paint – Create a really different painterly look by loading your brush with paint for every stroke, and rather than blend them, leave them as impressionistic as possible. More paint always appeals to a viewer, even if the details aren’t perfectly executed.

6)   Contrast  & Lighting – Considering the tonal values of your work and altering the contrast intensity, or even the light source on the support will do wonders in enhancing your failed work. Shine a lamp or a torch down over the work from the top, or from a specific side and paint in the shadows more intensely, or amplify the highlights or new light source by adding a light transparent wash over the desired area. You can also drag a dry brush with a little white over the area you wish to exaggerate, – both these methods can create a beam of light.

7)   Focal Point – One can intensify your focal point by understating other areas of the painting. By this I mean you could try to keep hard edges, detail and brighter colours mainly in the focal area of the painting.

8)   Variation – One adds interest to an artwork when the artist varies the techniques of blending smooth areas and leaving some with brushstrokes or texture. Adding Collage  and working it in also works to vary your overall look and add interest to the painting and the viewer.

9)   Rhythm – Is there an element in the painting that lends itself to duplication? Even a simple line, e.g. the outline shape of a violin. Just a suggestion of the shape can be enough. A confident brushstroke  says a thousand words and can create movement to the piece. Rhythm always works in paintings so consider it, even if you do away with another element in the piece to make way for it. The simplicity and the repetition will be more effective in the long run. Trust me!

10) It doesn’t say anything – when the painting seems to evoke no emotion or doesn’t relay a message, we can salvage this by adding something completely unexpected in the picture. The more obscure the better! Find an image in a magazine and either juxtapose it into the work by Collage or replicate the image in paint to get your viewer’s minds whirring! You can even google “Symbolism in Art” and add something with a hidden meaning…. This will certainly be a talking-point, or at the very least an element of extreme interest for yourself and the Viewer to interpret the meaning for themselves.

Art is such fun and whilst some of us paint to earn our living, the fact remains that we are blessed to be able to do what we love every day! What bliss! Make your art fun – don’t focus on the end result. Try not to fear trying something new – experimentation can bring out the real you! It’s true that miles on the brush bring expertise in craftsmanship, but try to remember this – work as though the only person you have to impress, is yourself.I guarantee your work on the whole will improve with this attitude as each piece will be an endeavour to be better than your last!

If you considered the painting a failure anyway, you have Carte Blanche to really PLAY – nothing to lose whatsoever! But I know you will turn that disaster into a blockbuster and I can’t wait to hear all about your experiences. Take a picture of the painting before and then again after you’ve tried some of my ideas.  Please send me these pics as I would love to join in the fun!

Happy painting!!


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