Why it is not failure to stop an art project and start again. – Raymond Reddington Charcoal pencil portrait

As part of my plan to improve my portrait work I have been working on portraits of people I admire and who have interesting faces to create.  Raymond “Red” Reddington (played by James Spader) is a character in a television program, I became fascinated with after binge watching the first three series of “The Blacklist” There was something in the way he held his lips to one side that thought was unique to him, therefore an interesting face to draw.

Read on to find out more about my creative process and why it is not failure to stop a project and start again.

I previously did a video of a self portrait that I struggled with and managed to salvage my work and bring it to a standard I was happy with.  For some reason I was unable to do this with Reds’ portrait.  If you are interested in watching a timelapse video of me drawing Reds’ portrait scroll down to the end of this post.  Although my inner critic was telling me I have failed, I decided I was not going to be a “failure” because I gave up with the first attempt.  I was going to “learn” from what the first attempt, to start again to do it better using what I had learnt from the first time round.  Charcoal pencil does not behave in the same way charcoal sticks do, nor do they behave in the same way graphite pencils do.  And despite using them on my self portrait and finally finishing my work to a reasonable standard, I found I was still not quite getting holding the pencil and using it accurately enough.  By avoiding resting my hand on the paper I found it more difficult to get my lines accurate so this was throwing my proportions off.  I also found it more difficult to remove marks from the paper so throwing off my ability to make changes more accurately, which is why I decided to start on a fresh bit of paper, in this instance.

How did I make my decision to start again?  Well first of all I changed my thoughts from “this is a failure” to “this is a lesson learnt”.  You see the truth is, artists do not always get something exactly right the first time round.  I believe art is about the process, within this process is the room to allow for lessons learnt.  Although it is great to take a step back, come back and use what you have learnt to change your work to allow it to be finished to a standard you are happy with, it is also okay to learn how to chalk up some work as experience, to start a fresh using the knowledge learnt to do it better the second or even third time round. For example some mediums will not allow a clean removal of marks on the paper or will no longer allow further changes as there is no “tooth” left on the paper to make changes. Tooth on paper is the roughness of the paper allowing medium to adhere to the paper, the less tooth there is the less a medium will stick, which is how you can over work paper.  For example, if you work and work on an area and it becomes flat there is no more tooth left for the medium to stick to.   As an alternative and a way to finish the work you started you can simply gesso over it (adding tooth back to the paper), which covers up pretty much any mistake, allowing you to start in a different medium. I am considering using my unfinished work to use as a base for an acrylic painting version of this portrait.  Watch this space to see if I get round to it lol

Getting back to the topic in hand.  It is my belief there is no limit to how many times you can start again if you feel it is needed.  The trick is to know when it is the right time “for you” to either, learn as you go, make changes and carry on or let it go and start again.  There is NO Shame in starting again, no matter how many times you do.  Of course getting stuck in the loop of thinking work  not being good enough and never getting work finished is a different topic altogether and if you would like this topic covered let me know in the comments and I will write an article for you.   For now just believe that it is okay to discontinue work on a piece of art to start again to use the lesson(s) learnt from the previous attempt to improve on the second.

Thank you for visiting, if you enjoyed this blog post, feel free to look at my other posts.  In the mean time enjoy the following video