Today I’m showing you a behind the scenes look at what happens when I create something that doesn’t go to plan. This is what happens most of the time, but you wouldn’t know, because I only share the pretty things. Lets keep it real. Here’s my creative process, warts and all..
Over a year ago I started a painting, and just this week I finally finished it. Hoorah!
I’m really pleased with how it turned out, especially looking back at my first attempt which is a bit on the embarrassing side. In fact, it’s downright hilarious!
I completely painted over it so it could never be seen by mortal eyes again. I did however, take a photo before it was destroyed. And now that everything has turned out ok, I thought I might share my process (ugly phase and all) with you so you can see what really goes on behind the scenes.
Spoiler alert: it rarely goes according to plan.
It all started with this watercolour sketch I did back in 2020. No prizes for guessing where the inspo might’ve come from. I was practicing painting skulls, had the pandemic on my mind and came up with this bird skull on a person. A bit of a plague mask type thing.
Now even though the artwork is dark and gloomy, it doesn’t reflect how I was feeling at the time. I was painting while binge watching Grace & Frankie, so I was anything but doom and gloom. But the painting looked cool and I thought it would look good on something bigger.
So along came the canvas and my first attempt at painting it. I made a textured underlay of gesso, to give it a rough look. Just because. No plans, just kind of went for it – I don’t think I even drew an outline, just went ahead and splashed on some paint. (May have had some Frankie vibes going on..) Turns out this is a really shit way for me (personally) to approach an artwork.
Bahahahhaaaaaa! What the hell is that?? It is so cringeworthy! It looks like a sad weird bird with a human eye! I still remember painting this part and thinking ‘well this is it, I’ve lost my skills. Yup, gone.’ This happens from time to time. It’s so annoying.
After a day or two of accepting the fact I couldn’t paint anymore, I thought screw it, let’s try again. I painted over the whole thing and started from scratch.
THIS time I put a bit more thought into what I was doing, and used a reference picture or two. Why hello skills, it’s nice to have you back! This is the perfect example of an artist having a good day vs a bad day.
Instead of just splashing on paint this time, I drew an outline, got the composition right, and started out with a wash of yellow and burnt umber. I wanted to try painting a backlight too, which is something I’ve never attempted before.
Now that I had a better vision, it was time to add some colour. I really need to plan my colour palettes better, because usually I just go on instinct. And if I’m not sure, I just go with purple. In this case I added pink, blue and purple.
So I’m happy with the makeover, and I’m painting away.. when I get to that tricky part of the painting where I don’t want to ruin it. It’s like I don’t know how to continue, but I know it’s not finished. This is real life artists problems. It must be approached with great caution. Too many times have I gone full steam ahead only to completely ruin something I really liked a few layers back. And dammit, there’s no ctrl Z!
I also ran out of burnt umber. In lockdown. So I had to put the painting aside until I ordered more paint and it arrived by mail.
The paint arrived, but I was too scared to work on the canvas. What if I couldn’t get the colours to match? What if I made it look like round one again? So, the painting sat there. I tried to convince myself a few times it was finished, or ‘that’ll do’ but it wasn’t right.
Then, a year or so later, along came another burst of inspiration and I had this grand idea for a new canvas! But I wanted to get this one finished first. So the drive I had to do one painting, pushed me to finish the other.
Turns out matching the paint colours wasn’t as tricky as I thought it would be. And in the cases where it was, I just painted over them. Take that mismatched paint.
I tried to fix up the skull, the roses and blend some colour into the background. I was slightly pleased with the background. All ready I preferred the previous layer.. but I figured I’d just keep painting over each part until I liked it.
When all of a sudden.. a day of painting and three reference pictures later..
Roses are looking better! Skull looking better! Eye looking better! Hair.. hair just became a whole lot longer but I’m not sure what else to do with it. More background colour, I like the cloudy look. There’s also shimmery paint but it’s difficult to see in the photographs.
Things are looking good! I’ve added some hair texture – after about 4 or more attempts I decided to just go with straight flowing hair. (Lets pretend there’s some wind.) The cloudy background called for some stars, so I covered the girls face while I splattered some paint. Upside downies for a different perspective. Also to paint the edges. We are on a roll..
..almost. I’m unhappy with her top. I tried painting it green, then blue, then pink. In the end I decided it was too bright, it should be in the shadows anyway with that backlight.
And finally… the finished piece! I’m really happy with the result, but it didn’t happen easily. I think all up this took me over 20 hours, I’d guess between 20 – 25 hours.
I’m planning to hold onto this treasure and *hopefully* display her when I organise an exhibition. It’s been a bit tricky to plan anything at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll get there! Thank you so much for making it this far and reading all about my creative process. Hope I’ve give you a little bit of insight.
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