Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Misfortunes

I once left some of my college artwork lying on the floor at my parent's house and one of my favorite paintings got wheeled over by an office chair.  It ripped the paper right in the middle and did irreparable damage.  I was heartbroken.  About five years later, when both my art and my sense of responsibility had matured somewhat (meaning, I knew not to leave paintings on the floor any more) I decided to repaint the image.  In the end, I have to admit, I am glad the original was damaged because the second painting was far better than the first:

Now that I look at it, I wonder why I liked the first painting so much.  For one thing, the first image was done in oil, which I was never very good at.  During college, as every student should, I was still dabbling in various media, trying to find what I liked.  As much as I loved the look of oil paintings, mine always came out looking too squashy or blurry or muddled.  I also still had a few things to learn about the human form and drapery and using reference.  In the second version, I had settled into watercolor as my medium of choice and had a few years of good solid experience with it.  I was more aware of using an interesting sense of form, especially in her hair, and raised her eyelids so we could see her eyes better.  In the first version, even though I knew she was looking down at the snowflake, many people I showed it to thought her eyes were closed (funny how we see our paintings so differently sometimes).  I also tossed in some rosy reflected light to add a little warmth to the otherwise monochromatic image.

My lesson learned: take disasters and run with them.  I've had a couple paintings "ruined" by my own mistakes or the interference of little hands, such as those of my 3-year-old who thought the white space I saved in the middle of what was to be a yellow-centered flower needed a good splash of red.  When I came back to my desk and found his addition, my first reaction was naturally one of distress.  After my efforts at retouch failed to eliminate that red tinge, I learned to incorporate it, and I felt the flower looked much better in the end.

I find it's the same in life.  Sometimes bad things happen that end up leading to good things.  So here's to little disasters.

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