on the problem child


——-Child, in this case, refers not to the small human beings I’ve been charged with, but rather instead to paintings with issues. Do not use tactics recommended below for said “problem children” on real live people or you may have mixed/volatile/incarcerating results.—–

With the increase of production in my studio efforts I have noticed an equal increase in problem children. I am learning that just because you make more work, doesn’t mean everything runs smoother. It is so much more about finding a rhythm and how you move past the bumps in your path. I have been practicing a few methods to keep going during these frustrating impasses. They are not set in stone and vary depending on size and/or the nature of the problem I’m facing. I will list them in no particular order and some days I employ them all:

**Throw it away. . .(I don’t love this, but some pieces are unredeemable and not for viewing.)

**Paint over it. . . (My favorite! I love to take panels I have wrestled over for months/years and simply repaint right over the top of them. It’s a little addictive and should be done with confidence. It also saves money and time prepping new panels. With space at a premium in our home, this is the only way I can keep making work without taking over the entire house. It also ensures me that I don’t have to keep work that I’m not crazy about. When I surround myself with a body of work that I’m not proud of I sink into despair and loose my focus.)

**Turn it upside down. . .(This only works for me when I’m struggling over the composition of a painting. . .but you can also look at it in a mirror or take a photo of it to change it into two dimensions. . .all of it is supposed to encourage a new perspective.)

**Put it away. . . .( I do this an awful lot as well. Especially when a piece is becoming frustrating and I can’t solve it.  It helps me cut the umbilical cord. . .separate from the work for a while to regain fresh eyes, it gives my mind a break from a circular thought pattern and opens me up to new possibilities. . .then I can ask more objective questions like, “Is it communicating what I intended?” or “Do I like it?”)

**Ask a trusted friend (or kid). . .(My kids offer opinions constantly, surprisingly they hit the nail on the head when it comes to problems. . .I just need to step back enough to hear them. I highly recommend a trusted critique group. I encouraged caution with receiving advice. Remember to stick with your gut.  Too many times I have without conviction brazenly changed something in a painting to please someone else and been horrified with the results. Your initial instincts can be trusted, so give advice time to season(if it’s not helpful) or sink in(if it rings true))

**Put in in a different room. . .(This is similar to putting it away except in that you can “live with it” for a while and see what working. I currently have a piece I’m doing this with and I found the other day as I glanced up at it that I really love this one section, it was all the stuff around it that was driving me mad. After I eliminated the crazy-making areas I saw it in a whole new light.)

**Sleep on it. . . (Sometimes I wake up and find the problem was in my imagination, hanging out with all sorts of riffraff. Sleep scrubs the brain.)

**Work on something else. . ( Love this as well. . . maybe I avoid problems like the plague, but there’s always something to work on whether it’s other pieces or more domestic projects. . . a little distraction does wonders.)

Retain a bigger perspective:  The real thing to remember in all of this is that yes, you’ve poured your heart, soul, energy and time into this or that work, but if it doesn’t work out. . .it isn’t a reflection on your character or even your skill.  The experience you’ve gained, the things you’ve gleaned along the way. . .that’s the gold at the end of the rainbow!  It’s all in the journey.  

One last morsel of advice I remind myself of often is to keep growing. Being one-dimensional is boring and produces boring work. Don’t just live for the artwork. Love someone, read some fiction, learn about something new, laugh, open your eyes to the big wide world around you. This is what life is about. . . discovery, joy, finding hope, struggling through, paying attention.  You cannot produce meaningful anything when you spend your every breath on one thing. I highly recommend a good reading of the Psalms for healthy dose of realignment to that which truly matters, eternally speaking.. . this is something I do need every day.

**Painting is Night Flight (a problem child that survived, amazingly!), by Shawna Gilmore 



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