On Salvaging a Painting

A reader emailed the other day looking for help with salvaging a painting that took a few wrong turns. I was able to provide some technical suggestions, but part of my advice was to consider letting it go and chalking it up to a lesson learned for next time.

Salvaging a painting becomes harder as you progress through a painting. This comes down to:

– Having a significant amount of paint already on the canvas. The more paint on the canvas, the harder it is to work with.

– The pressure of trying to preserve what you have already done. This can make you timid in your strokes.

– Sometimes the mistake stems from the early stages of the painting and only rears its head later on. Like a slight error in the initial drawing that only becomes evident once you have laid down the lights and shadows. It’s near impossible to fix a mistake in the foundation of the painting once you reach the later stages.

This email is to let you know that it is ok to let a painting go. A lesson learned for next time is often more productive than getting frustrated trying to salvage a painting gone wrong.

Everyone has paintings that cannot be salvaged. If not, then you might not be pushing yourself hard enough.

It happened to me the other day. I lost focus midway and made a few poor decisions in a row. I might be able to salvage it, but I doubt the effort and frustration would be worth it. I’d rather start a new painting and try to avoid making the same mistake twice.

That’s not to say you should give up at the first sign of adversity. This email is more about paintings where you have taken several wrong turns and you can no longer see a way back.

Happy painting!

Kind regards

Dan Scott