The Art of Sandra Busby...
Painter of Playful Light in Glass and Still Life


Friday, 13 April 2012

Bear meets foot: Hiyyyyyyyyyyah!!!!!

CAUTION - Post of EPIC proportions coming up!!! RUN! Run like the wind while you still caaaaaaaaaaan............................................

Still here? Okay, well here goes...

When I took one of my previous bear paintings to show my Uncle Danny, he told me that I had become a 'true Artist'.
As you can imagine, this meant so much to me coming from a man who has work on display (mainly sculptures) in various museums and other such places :0)

But then he warned me - "It won't always be this way you know. There will be times when a painting just won't work."

Q: So at what point should we make the decision to walk away?

I have had an ongoing battle with bear number 4 for what seems like an eternity.
Parts of it came so easily; The newspaper, although looks complicated took me very little time at all - maybe an hour or two. The bear also was no problem and came together in record time. The pipe was really easy, and so was the wooden shelf.

So, there was a point where I thought that the painting would be finished in no time at all.
But then, as I worked on, I seemed to keep taking steps backwards rather than forwards.

Firstly, I realised that I wasn't happy with the unbroken angle of the mirror. This is something that I should have spotted in the original sketch, but didn't.
That problem was minimised by adding some peeling paint on the walls coming out from beneath the frame. This broke up the sharp edge and also looked quite real close up too, even though I say so myself! ;0)

Then it was the reflection of the clock and sign in the mirror that troubled me. They were too large and suggested that the opposite wall was much closer than was meant. They also diverted the attention from the bear himself, who is after all meant to be the main focus!
Again, I really should have spotted this in the original sketch.

So, to resolve that problem I painted over it completely and instead suggested the reflection of both the tips of a chandelier and a money-spider dangling from it's thread.
A beveled edge finished that off nicely - Hmm... but still something wasn't right.

Then while I pondered on it,  I added a glaze to warm the oil-lamp slightly. This was a HUGE mistake! On reflection, it was just fine as it was and I shouldn't have touched it at all. The oil-lamp was now so vibrant that it took over the entire painting. 
I tried to remove the glaze gently with a little Liquin, but this removed far more than I had bargained for and the oil-lamp, which really had taken me a long time to do, was suddenly needing to be painted all over again!

I continued battling with the bear for some weeks, adding this, taking away that, one step forward, three steps back... You know that feeling when there are parts of a painting that you love, so you just don't want to give up? Well that's how I felt.
So, I just kept on working on it and working on it, hoping that it would come together - always finding a new problem and always working on a new solution... before the next problem came along... and then the next...

Before the point where I had glazed the oil-lamp, I still wonder if I could have made something of the whole thing, but at this point, enough was enough and those words that my Uncle Danny said to me, rang in my head once again... 'It won't always be this way you know. There will be times when a painting just won't work.'

And that's when I finally faced the fact that this painting that was just never going to work - not as a whole anyway.

So, I found a solution to that problem too - by way of foot through canvas!
A little extreme, you might think? But the relief that waved through my body said it all...

...And then I cried - just a little :0(

There was something quite therapeutic about destroying it though if I'm honest!
I think it's because I was taking away any further opportunity to waste any more of my time on it, which I might have done had I have put it to one side. 

Anyway, I will show you these few photographs of various sections of the painting that I took at different stages along the way.
I'm sorry about the poor quality of the photo's, but they were never meant to be seen and there seems to be an awful lot of glare coming from the wet paint!

...I loved the bear. He had a lot of character.

I thought he would be a challenge, but he was easier than the previous two by a long way and didn't take very long at all :0)

I was really happy with the pipe and the wooden shelf...

Here is the oil-lamp before the disastrous glaze! 

...Sigh...I am heart-broken looking at it now :0(

...The newspaper in progress.

Although you might like the individual bits, remember that it just wasn't working as a whole and that's why is was not worth continuing with.

...What a shame - all that work... I feel quite emotional now :0(
But. onwards and upwards * as I give my self an imaginary shake*!

So, what now?
Well, I have picked myself up, brushed my self off (along with fragments of bear from boot), set up a new bear and prepared a new canvas.
I have a new composition, with a different bear which I will study very carefully before I put a brush to that canvas! The new one is on the theme of wine and one of the props happens to be my Uncle Danny's antique decanter :0)

This time I am armed with a new lesson under my belt. That lesson being that the moment I feel any doubt - I must walk away, work on something else and come back to it with fresh eyes. This should limit the amount of time and effort being wasted.

I am also planning to have another go at the bear I have just put my foot through too. 
The plan is that I can work on them both at once.
But this time, the mirror will be oval. The reflection will be simple and understated, there will be an extra item or two to break it up a little and I will be much more sparing with my glazes!

I am very lucky that when I told the Gallery owner my feelings about the painting, he was more than understanding and wasn't worried at all. Phew!

So, my own answer to that question; At what point should we make the decision to walk away?

A: As soon as there is any doubt!

Walk away and come back after at least a week! This might avoid wasting an awful lot of time on something that is only ever going to fail, only to end up giving it the Karate Chop!!

Anyway - Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever put a lot of time and effort in to something only to throw it in the bin? I would love to hear your own stories, if only to make me feel better about mine ;0)

Just before I go, I will leave you with a random thought I had this week...

My random thought:

It occurred to me that before this week, the last time I cried (or wailed, if I'm honest), was when Codi passed away.
Of course I am not remotely comparing the two as anywhere near the same feeling - absolutely not - but, I am not one to cry at nothing.
With that in mind, there should be no question as to why art is expensive. We put our hearts and our souls in to it.
You simply can not put a price on that. 



  1. Sandra, what a brilliant post! You know I can relate utterly and completely with what you felt and did to the painting. Even now, I look at the other unfinished goose painting, and find myself thinking "NO! You can make it much better." So onwards and upwards ...

    1. Thank you Kathryn! Yes - onwards and upwards for the both of us! :0)

  2. Poor you but I think you have learnt a lot.

    A thought, but I'm not an oil painter so pls disregard, after you have done your composition sketches how about a full scale (not detailed) watercolour version? This would give you another view before investing so much of yourself & time.

    1. Thanks Sue - It's a very good idea. But, all of the things that were wrong with the painting were in the original sketch - I just didn't look hard enough to see it and jumped in far too quickly! I don't intend to make that mistake again :0)

  3. Awwwwwwwww, Sandra, I can SOOO relate and I do understand the tears over something you have put so much time and care in to. On a lighter note, having learned as much as you did with this one piece, I suspect this will be the last one you will need to destroy :). You had some beautiful parts that will find life in other paintings and I look forward to seeing your next bear!


    1. Sandy - Thank you. Yes, I did learn a lot from this experience and I really hope that you are right and I don't make the same mistake again! I'd hate to destroy another! I have a much better feeling about the next :0)

  4. That is quite a story, Sandra, and a great lesson learned the hard way! It is such a pity you cannot make postcards out of the good bits... :)) xx Judy

    1. Thank you Judy! It's on a canvas covered board and at 18 by 22 inches, even the pipe alone would be too big for a post card! That said, it is a shame there was nothing I could have done with any of it. I love the way you cut your paintings in to little bits and make cards :0)

  5. I don't think there's an artist's heart out there that won't want to reach out and give you a big hug Sandra! I feel so bad for you, and btw TOTALLY relate to this story myself. :) I have done the same thing and I completely agree with you when we feel that doubt we really need to stop and refocus, or even throw the disaster away! If for no other reason than the doubt itself has corroded our feelings about the work, and how is it possible to create a masterful looking work when we're feeling, no knowing, that the work isn't going well.

    I'll cry with you my friend! And I do love all those individual parts! They are so well painted. Good luck, and onwards and HUZZAHs all around for the newest bear painting! May your brush obey your every whim! :))

    Crystal (well of course it's me, I just felt like 'signing' my name. :D)

    1. Thank you Crystal - Your cyber hug is gratefully received!
      Ugh, it really is quite a confidence crusher isn't it, when paintings go wrong? So I just pretend that I was just giving my self a really long lesson in all of the things I mustn't do the next time, lol! I do hope that this one works out! What am I saying? Of course it will - Huzzah!! :0)

  6. Hello Sandra,
    all this struggle in search of making the best part of the artist's life.
    You are honest and engaged with their work. That's what matters.
    The considerations that you made about what was working or not, appear as classes to see and feel artistic.
    Come on, you're an artist!
    a hug

    1. Antonio - Thank you so much! Your words are so encouraging and they do make me feel much better. You are right, I have learned a valuable lesson from this and I'm sure that even the 'Great Masters' used to throw a few disasters away. I just need to make sure I don't make the same mistakes again :0)

  7. Yes Sandra, I think we all understand why you did this! It's sad because it looks beautiful to me but if you're not happy with it you'd never be happy with it. I'm sure your next bear will be perfect and I look forward to seeing it. Hugs!!!

    1. Hilda - Thank you. I am sad too because of the little bits that I really liked, but it was like having a jigsaw that didn't fit and I just knew I'd never be happy with it. I also think I strayed too far from the style of the other bears, so it would never have sat well as part of the series either. So - the next is in the making and I am keeping everything crossed that it will be much better :0)

  8. Wrestling with bears isn't for the feint-hearted, and you've proven that you are not that.

    If oil painting was easy, everyone would do it and you would soon get bored, Sandra. Nevertheless, what a bummer!

    During my life I have probably ruined more things than I have made ... and I have yet to make anything that I think is perfect or turned out exactly as I imagined.

    Onwards and upwards, Sandra ... out the ashes !!!

    1. Thank you John! I think if I was faint hearted I would have given up art by now! It's funny that sometimes I have a picture in my head and yet somehow something entirely different comes out on the canvas! In this case, the pipe, the newspaper and the bear were exactly as I'd imagined, but everything else went completely their own way, probably because I hadn't really thought about those bits to begin with! Still never mind - I learned a lot! And I'll bet your 'disasters' would be considered by most as masterpieces! :0)

  9. Lovely bear! Happy weekend, Arianna

  10. sandra !i'm sorry's difficult to say why some paintings just fall into place without a struggle ..others need time to work out ... sounds like you're still working out
    No 4 you'll get there if not the first time in the next painting ... the teddy tone colour character looks wonderful .

    1. Thank you Jane! Yes, I really hope that you are right! Second time lucky! So keep your fingers crossed for the next one :0D

  11. Hi Sandra, it is not easy for me to comment this post. Your approach to the painting is so different from mine that I have some difficulties to understand all your troubles.
    Some years ago I paid much more attention to every phase of a painting, preparation, drawing, choice of the colors, choice of the paper, choice of the brushes, etc etc... One day, by chance, I attended a watercolor demonstration of my present master, Gorlini. In about 30 minutes he painted an incredible and fabolous watercolor of 70 x 100 cm, just using a large flat brush (cost few euros), a dirty palette with dirty water.... After that demonstration I decided that for me, nothing would be as before. Few month later I started the watercolor courses of Gorlini, at beginning it was very difficult, but after some months I understood and embraced his way of interpreting the painting. I found his approach unique and very clear, paint in freedom, not being influenced too much by the subject and, in case the final results will be unsatisfactory.....try again (now I do not take more than 2 ours to paint a watercolor). Painting must be a beautiful thing, fun and relaxing. Perhaps this method is only possible with watercolors, I do not know.
    Anyway, your bears looks nice to me and I'm sure that the next one will be your best bear!! Un abbraccio!
    Ps : sorry for my English!

    1. Thank you Tito! There is a lot to be said for painting with bold strokes and such freedom! With my vintage style bears, I am trying to re-capture the style of some of the old masters, but with my own modern take on it. But, you can be sure that when I have completed the series of bears I will be throwing some watercolours around if only to have some fun! I am sure they won't be nearly as wonderful as yours though! I do find painting fun even when I paint with such care - as long as it is going well! It does make it much harder when it goes wrong though because so much time has been spent! By the way, your English is really very good indeed! :0)

  12. I don't see one thing wrong with this painting.Walk away and come back to enjoy this great Painting,it's wonderful!

    1. Thank you Cathy! The only way I'd get to enjoy it now is if I were sitting in a landfill somewhere, lol! Oh well! :0)

  13. I think it is admirable that you permanently ruined the painting so you wouldn't waste any more time. I'm sure it was therapeutic! Just think of all the lessons you have learned from this one! I find it helpful when I start a painting to tell myself that it will work out, get my mind in the right frame!

    1. Thank you Carrie!It was therapeutic - though I could well do without any more therapy quite like that, lol! I am treating it as a valuable lesson and yes, I am thinking much more positively about the next, so fingers crossed! :0)

  14. It is a shame the canvas couldn't have been cut up as Judy suggested.
    Or painted over. Still, that wouldn't have been as satisfactory as the Miss Piggy one :lol:

    Last time I got that emotional over a painting was when the Royal Mail told me that one of mine on the way to the US had been lost, probably forever. That was when I realised how much of me I invested in my art!

    1. Thank you Pat - yes it is a shame! But yes, it was fun being Miss Piggy, lol ;0) Wow, that must have been awful for you! I'd have been SO upset! You must have been fuming!:0/

  15. You're right, all the parts are there. Great work.

    1. Thank you Nora! It's just a shame they didn't fit! But never mind. Next time :0)

  16. sandra, I am so gutted for you as I can appreciate exactly how much blood sweat and tears went into that painting. I would've cried too- that oil lamp was exquisite! all those individual parts looked perfect but i kbow what you mean when you just aren't happy with it overall. I'm having a similar problem with the first of my 'big' rainy windows paintings. I've started over for the third time now, getting so far and then throwing the head up and painting the entire canvas black ready to start from scratch-it was a thin canvas at the start but with all these layers it'll soon be several inches thicker!
    goog luck with the next bear-i have every faith in you!

    1. Thank you so Much Nicola! I am glad that you liked the little bits of it, even if they didn't fit well together. I was gutted and more annoyed with myself for spending so long working on it than I was about destroying it in the end. I hope I never have to do it again! I've never had too much success in painting over a used canvas. I seem to always still be able to see part of the painting beneath! I think it's because I don't use much white in these ones so the paint remains translucent for the most part. I wonder why you are struggling with the larger ones. I absolutely LOVE your rainy window series and I'm convinced if you had a series of large ones, a Gallery would love them! They are so clever and quite unique too. You are probably just so used to doing them smaller and so will need a little practice at first to adjust to the new scale. We will have to keep everything crossed for each other that the next ones will be problem free :o)

  17. I ruined a painting because I did not wait until the next day. The whole painting was so fantastic. It was a commission. I started over again on a second page, but, the first had such life and energy, I could not duplicate that. I hope I remember and have the discipline to walk away from a painting the next time I am unhappy with it.

    1. Oh it's awful when that happens isn't it? I am also impatient and have done the same in the past - but on those occasions I've used watercolour and so nowhere near the amount of time was lost! :0)


Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Where possible I will respond via email. I really do love to read them! They always make me smile ;0)


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