The Agony and the Ecstasy

I find painting a very emotional experience a lot of the time. Mark says you should always paint your masterpiece, and that's what I believe too. I want to paint something beautiful that means something to me. But I just don't have the skills. That's the simple truth. I now have the THEORY/METHOD, thanks to Mark, but I struggle a lot.

Recently I sat in front of my painting and could not understand how I could possibly paint the hair on Lucia's right side even though I'd just done the hair on her left.  I actually sat down and cried.  Felt absolute despair. Sometimes I have to test colors about 30 times before I get the right value and hue. I don’t understand why it is so difficult for me. Surely other people don’t find it that difficult?

Anyway a friend recommended I read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone which is the story of Michaelangelos' life. Agony and Ecstasy sound about right, but I'd like a bit more of the ecstasy.  Do other people feel this way?



  • I crap myself every time I start a new painting, usually because I keep pushing outside my comfort zone, and I think because I try to do what I think I can’t,I’m usually reasonably happy with the end result because it’s not a complete disaster  ( with the caveat that, of course it’s not perfect and amazing so there’s a dissatisfaction in there as well) It is getting less agonising, I have some WIP threads on here where I have whinged and whined my way through the whole process. I seem to be whining less these days, for which the forum will be grateful ha ha.
  • edited October 2018
    @Dianna, you are not alone. Every painting I do is like that.

     The following is the sort if conversation I have with myself during every painting:

    Why can't I get that cloud and that branch right? Surely anyone else would be able to get it right first time. I'm hopeless! I should never have got into painting. Or at least I should have known not to start this one ....  Perhaps I should just open a bottle whisky. Or jump off a bridge.

    No,  Rob,  take a deep breath. What's not right? Is it form, value or colour?  What is wrong? Okay, form is off and it"s not dark enough under that branch. Scrape it off and do it again and come back to the cloud later. And on and on ...

    This sort of crap goes on with every painting I do. But that's painting. It's agony. But when you get it right, finally,  it's ecstasy. There's no easy way to do it. If there were,  everyone would be doing it and paintings would be worthless. It's bloody hard work. Those who think they'll take up painting and quickly dash off a couple of masterpieces in their spare time, get disvovered by a talent scout and quickly make a fortune are living in la la land. And even if a developing artist gets taken on by a gallery and has a successful exhibition it would be folly for him or her to think they have it made. What they need to understand is that they have 50 years of hard work ahead of them and the highest prices their work will go for will be realised after they are dead.

    I guess one has to be addicted to the agony and the ecstasy. The lows make the highs so special. But one has to be really committed to it to go on. Fortunately, because of DMP, we are not alone.  :)
  • DMP could stand for Depression, Masochism,Pain.

    I’ve had people say to me “ oh, you must find painting soooo relaxing” I just tell them that it’s a lot of things and relaxing definitely isn’t one of them. Then they just look puzzled, LOL.
  • edited October 2018
    It's hard work, sometimes very hard. Answer: love what you do, love what you paint, love painting, be gentle. 
  • SummerSummer -
    edited October 2018
    I keep painting for the communication between me and the canvas and whatever tools I am using.  What I learn from each one keeps me going in awe.  I guess I'm not there yet--haha!
  • Boudicca said:
    ... I just tell them that it’s a lot of things and relaxing definitely isn’t one of them.
    I find it endlessly relaxing.  It's just me, my music, and color.  Everything I do is correctable.
  • Every artist (except Bill Alexander maybe) starts out like that and sometimes it happens in the middle of a successful painting. We just get stuck. Take time to reflect and look at it from other angles and from a distance. Scrape parts off and start over if necessary. That's why painting is so satisfying... we overcame the problems.
  • @Boudicca  Well, I've only read your posting so far and ABSOLUTEY LOVED IT.  Laughed and laughed, especially about the whinging and whining the whole way through. I could have written it myself. And yes, it is about pushing through your comfort zone.  And there's nothing wrong with that, that's how you improve.  Thank you.  It makes me feel better to know there are other people out there who have similar experiences.  If one more person in the 'outside' world (outside art I mean) says to me "You must find it so relaxing to paint" or "It's such a distraction isn't it" I'm going to punch them right in the mouth.  (No, not really, but I enjoy the thought)  (Distraction from what????)
  • @tassieguy  Again, VERY FUNNY.  And sooooo true.  I have conversations like that the whole way through the painting. It really is agony a lot of the time, kind of, and then when you get it right there's this feeling of happiness that sweeps through you and lasts, oh, a second or two.  But I think it's all connected to the part of us that makes us DRIVEN to create art.  It we want to satisfy that drive to create whatever it is we want to create - for me something beautiful - then we have to go down the path of effort and learning and frustration.  When I finish a painting, and I've done everything I have the technical skills to do, I LOVE that painting. Sometimes years later (or even less) when I look at it I might be embarrassed about how amateurish it looks -- but that's later.  There's something about the process of painting that creates love, as corny as that sounds. Anyway, thank you Rob.  Your voice will also be in my head when I next paint, which will be in about two hours.  Dianna
  • @Boudicca   For heaven's sake, stop it. I have a little flatmate asleep in the next bedroom and if I keep laughing out loud I'm going to wake her up.  I wrote my comments about " must find it so relaxing" before I read your post.  Don't they drive you nuts!!!!!
  • @Forgiveness   Yes, I'm not very gentle with myself.  It's not always a drama of agony and ecstasy when I paint, of course. Sometimes I put the music on and patter away with the paint brush and I'm actually quite happy. I love these times. But I have an unrealistic expectation that it should be like this ALL THE TIME and I'm quite outraged when it's not.
  • @PaulB and @Summer One of the mantra's I use when I'm having problems in a painting is that I can always change it if it's not right. And that is calming, I must admit. I love the fact that you have that peace nearly all the time you paint, how wonderful, Paul -- but I guess I'm just not built that way. I will try to remember ALL OF YOU when I paint in future, and know that whatever experience I am having, it's kind of normal.  And @Bob73 Yes, I love it when I solve problems.  I take a photograph every time I've finished a painting session and look at it in Photoshop. It helps me identify problems enormously and I'm always pleased and satisifed when I solve a problem. Fixing Lucia's right eye took me about three weeks but when I got there, I felt great!  (However, during the three weeks there was much agony and whinging and whining)
  • Just one more thing.  Sorry if I've said too much already.  It is my personality to push outside my comfort zone, no question about it. I would say my skills have improved by 30-40% IN ONE PAINTING since studying Mark's Method.  That is quite a stupendous improvement when you think about it and it's all thanks to Mark's teachings. Of course I find it terribly difficult at times!!!!  But I am so excited at the abilty to improve my art in this way. I have NEVER experienced this before. You go to art classes, the teacher puts out the odd fire (no pun intended Bob), you leave disheartened after a relatively short period of time because you are bored witless, and then ten years later start again. I don't have any ten year periods left to waste, I'm 71 now. This is my last opportunity to paint properly and I am grabbing it.   AND THE FORUM IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THIS.  I am blown-away by the sophistication of some of you, the humour of just about all of you, and the willingness to help each other in whatever way you can. So thank you everyone and I am looking forward doing a lot more whinging and whining with all of you.
  • 30-40% improvement? Mine improved 100% but still looked like trash so maybe 100% isn't always better than 30%. The difference was that after a Carder video, I knew WHY my painting was trash. Writing makes you feel better about it and I hope you feel better now too.
  • edited October 2018
    I really like the comments about everything being correctable. So true. Oil painting, unlike watercolour,  is very forgiving. In the mornings when I make my way up to the studio prepared to do battle I need to remember that.

     I envy those who find it relaxing.  It may not be relaxing for me but it's certainly engaging. In retirement it sure beats gardening.  :)
  • Yes, engaging would be the word for me too. The most enjoyable part for me is after I have “finished” and then start making subtle refinements, I can happily spend hours doing this.
  • @Boudicca -- I think I agree with you.  I think the most enjoyable part for me is after I've finished and then start making suble refinemnents.  I was just thinking that this afternoon as I was painting.  You get a lot of bang for your bucks at that stage of things.
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