Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Showstopper - SOLD, and perceived failure

Showstopper sold
5" x 7" watercolor and gouache

This painting did not turn out the way I wanted it to. I painted the horse first, which I was pretty happy with, and then painted the background. This my friends, was not a very smart plan.

I often leave the background until the very end, especially when working on a portrait, because I don't want to risk dark colors flooding into the glowing skin tones I've worked so hard to achieve. But, alas, twas not a good idea in this case. 

Because I didn't plan how I wanted the background to look. I just kinda thought I would splash some colors in there, make it all fresh and nice looking, and voila! Instant beautiful background!

Yeah. . . didn't work out like that. The wash I laid down was lackluster and just the WRONG color. It looked like a horse from Hades. Seriously, it did.  

Which ticked me off because I was so happy with how I painted the horse.

So I thought about what, if anything, I could do to save the painting.

Then I remembered that I had seen watercolor artist Jean Pederson use gouache on some of her backgrounds to give them a chunky oil-type look (which, ahem, she does intentionally, not as a rescue effort).

So I thought to myself, what do I have to lose?

It was a scary thing to put down that opaque gouache and totally obliterate the transparent watercolor background, even as ugly as it was. But I told myself to be brave and just go for it.

And. . . Huzzah! I LOVED the results. The horse is purely watercolor, but the background is mostly gouache that I tinted with some watercolors. I think I'm going to be using this technique again, intentionally this time.

So, even though originally I thought I had failed, really I didn't. I just had to change the way I was looking at it. And that made all the difference. Sometimes when we think we fail, it's really us just not seeing the new opportunity that's opened up. A new chance to push ourselves in a way we wouldn't have otherwise. 

"If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again. " ~ Flavia Weedn

Anybody want to share a failure turned success story? I'd love to hear it. :)  

*Special thanks to Sarah Inskip of Dantona Stud, fellow horse enthusiast, artist, and awesome photographer, for letting me use her photo of this gorgeous horse. Thanks Sarah!  


  1. Love it!! What a save! :)

    LOL, I have one colored pencil illo that my kiddo scribbled over when I wasn't looking. I managed to salvage parts of it and ended up with a mixed media collage... with great results! :) Better than it would have been had my baby not scribbled over it.

  2. I'm too busy staring at that beautiful glossy coat to notice anything else! It's great that you managed to rescue it. One of the bloggers I follow often just washes her failed paintings off under a tap. Then she lets it dry and is left with just a hint of the original painting. Then, she does a completely new painting over the top, which gives an amazing effect of a ghostly figure or whatever underneath! It's very clever! If I shared my failures with you I would be here all day, so I will spare you, lol! ;0)

  3. I can see why you loved that horse. It's beautiful and well done.

    But I really appreciate your post the most today, because you touch on a subject that all artists (and non artists) have to deal will. Your message came through clear and accurate!

  4. When I saw it first I thought oh wow.. Nice use it of opaque colors for background. I thought it was a great idea. So finally it was a small journey that you undertook to reach where you have reached. And the journey was that of a little courage and a little luck. So you see it is important to undertake that journey. :)

  5. I'm glad you were able to rescue your lovely painting. Failures? Me? Heaven forbid. Last big one that I can remember is a Belsnickle I put in the oven to dry and since it was so tall I laid it on it's side only to have it flatten. I managed to slavage it by running water through it and trying to force it back into shape. I wasn't able to get it back into it's original shape but the new shape turned out even better.

  6. Nicely done, Crystal (both the painting and the "salvage operation", as I like to call them)!

    I'd have never known when I first saw your painting of this fetching Welsh Cob was at any point a failure; the gouache worked beautifully.

  7. I like the gouache background very much! So clever of you to think of that!

  8. Wonderful save, Crystal. What's nice about a failed watercolor is that we can always section it off and cut it up as ACEO's to salvage portions of it. I wish I had thought of that when I wrecked my Ice Water Bottle painting; I shredded it and tossed it out before that brilliant idea came to mind. I will know better next time.

  9. Absolutely gorgeous! Love the save!

  10. wow!! in reading i thought you weren't pleased with this background!! it's STUNNING!! and the horse is...well i gasped when i saw it and that says it all. just beyond beautiful crystal.

  11. Good save, Crystal! The horse's coat is so beautifully done, it would have been such a shame to lose that. BRAVO!

  12. Love the painting as well as the saved background, and love your motivational posts! I look forward to your next one!

  13. Beautiful,Crystal! Love the use of your new technique, I'm sure it will manifest itself into other of your paintings. Horse from Hades, he he he. Nice save!

  14. I LOVE this...I capitalized to accentuate how much I love it! :-)

  15. Love the painting results and that quote. Way to go, Crystal.

  16. Love that quote -perfect pairing for your painting!!! I am well versed in painting over and reworking by first attempts :) I like the freedom it offers when I work on a failed or abandoned piece!I feel that is when I have made by best discoveries as an artist:)

  17. What a great post really appreciate your sharing. And of course the finished product is beautiful, love that horse!

  18. Beautiful painting, great color harmony! --Worth all the effort for sure!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment they really do mean so much to me! Because not all bloggers have their email enabled so I can reply directly through email I will try to reply here in the comments. If I don't please forgive me, life must have been hectic that day! :)) Huzzah!!

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