Why I work on several paintings at the same time

June 20, 2015

Bottles 5 late stage of development

Bottles 5 late stage of development

I’ve only recently begun to work simultaneously on two or three paintings.

And I’m discovering that there are numerous advantages for me in doing this.

First, I don’t obsess as much on one painting. Normally, I’ll spend a lot of time working into what I’ve set down initially to try to ‘get it right’. When, often what I had was already good and fresh, and I just should have left it alone! Having more paintings in the sidelines waiting for their turn, helps me detach (can you hear that sound of a suction cup letting go? Thwock)! and turn my beady eye on a new victim.

Secondly, each painting has its own character and demands a different approach in applying paint, colour, etc. (though I do try to work on paintings that have a similar palette). So it has happened that where I was getting too tight on one painting, and worked on one with a looser approach, getting back to the first one, I could let go a little easier. So far that has been the biggest advantage for me.

Third, trying to finish one painting in order to get to the next new one can put me in a frame of mind which isn’t optimal for taking the patient, caring steps needed to finish a work with honour. I am slightly bored with the end stages, I like the excitement of the first parts of the process best and have to discipline myself not to rush completion. So being able to work on several at the same time avoids the feeling of having to rush to get to the next one.

The one above is interesting, it is being worked on with others in the bottle series (see an earlier post):

5 bottles

5 bottles


Blue bottles still life present stage

Blue bottles still life present stage

Here was an earlier version of it:

Early stage bottles 5

Early stage bottles 5

I tried to keep those landscapey little blocks of green and pink in the background and background bottle, but just couldn’t pull it off. It was useful though, because those colours do shine through here and there in the present version (top of page) and liven it up.

I learned with this one that you can’t honour both intentions, realistic and abstract, at least I can’t – not yet. An artist friend, Eoin Mac Lochlainn, wrote in a recent conversation that it is tricky to straddle the line between realistic and abstract. He works in both sometimes and has shown them together. [Evidently I misunderstood a previous conversation Eoin and I were having, and he doesn’t consider the skies pure abstracts- see his comment below. Apologies, Eoin].Now that is tricky, but in this case I think he pulls it off. There is a clear intention there of showing the lovely empty skies with the abandoned fireplaces, and I feel they enrich one another.(Do look at the short video on his blog, and the music is wonderful).

9 Responses to “Why I work on several paintings at the same time”

  1. These belong in a museum.

  2. An enigmatic comment that I’ll take as a compliment. (Do they belong in a museum because they are old and dusty, masterful, unique, look like art that is in museums??)
    Thank you.
    I looked at your blog, it is heartfelt, insightful and beautifully written.

  3. Thanks for linking to my blog Sarah but I’m afraid I don’t really deserve your comment. I agree that you could say that my skies are ‘verging on the abstract’ but they’re not really abstract, they’re just sort of vague 🙂 The experiments that you’re working on are much more significant. and I think it’s a good idea to work on a few simultaneously. Best of luck with them, eoin

  4. decorartuk Says:

    Remember Eoin showed us Nicholas Wilton? So today I was reading one of his posts: http://www.nicholaswilton.com/2015/07/01/three-ways-to-make-your-art-easier/

    I think quite a few artists like to have several “victims” at a time. I agree that it’s useful to have a break from one, so that you could come back to it later with a fresh eye and a new burst of energy. K.

    • Yes K, I receive Nicholas’s feed and I was blown away at the parallels in that post and in mine. He tends to hit on core things and say them very well. I also learn a lot from the artists who comment on his blog.

      Finding Eoin through you!, and finding Nicholas through Eoin has been really great and is a huge support to my journey as a painter.

  5. Yes, I agree, and a lovely way of putting it.

  6. Zom Says:

    I also like having several paintings going at once, even up to 5 or 6. I find they can often have a ‘conversation’, with one informing another.

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