How long do you keep working on a piece before admitting defeat? Before accepting that it’s not going to work out how you want. Or do you never give up, do you think that’s pretty much anything — as long as you haven’t spilled a tin of paint over it — is redeemable?
There are very few things that I’ve actually ever given up on completely and most of those were what-if experiments rather than fully thought-out projects.
I have a handful of cards in my rework pile that maybe one day I’ll figure out what they need to make them work. For the most part cards are pretty straightforward — leaving them overnight, coming back with fresh eyes the following day normally gives a solution time to come to mind.
Most mixed media pieces, to be fair, seem to work out okay. A lot of them are things where I’m following a class — maybe not to the letter but there is a general recipe — and, as long as I have confidence in the teacher, I follow it through to the end and most times I’m happy with the result.
Most times, but not always. The Artful Academy Visible Image collection was a good example: the main four lessons turned out nicely, but the bonus lesson was a different matter. It started out well with a background made with Distress crayons, a stencil and a baby wipe. I actually loved the initial background — I’ve had a handful of Distress crayons for years and this was the first time I’d used them properly — but pretty much every step after that made it worse. I reached the end of the class and, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be showing it to anyone.
Now, I had two choices. First option, I could just pretend that I never made it, throw it in the bin and move onto the next thing. But that’s not me, that’s not what I do. I wanted to find a way to make this work — it was never going to be something I love, but maybe I could turn it into something I didn’t hate.
So I kept going. A few little tweaks here and there, adding some torn paper to break up the edges, but it still wasn’t working. I had the idea to extend the black borders, to make the focal images feel more a part of the piece rather than just stuck onto it. And then I remembered I had a spare stamped hummingbird; I added some more colour to that with metallic pencils, fussy cut it out and put it to one side while I painted some more intense colour onto the flower which was previously just stamped in Distress ink. Then I curled the hummingbird’s wing and tail to create a little dimension and glued it over the original stamped image. The final touch was to add some black around the edges of the focal images using acrylic paint and a piece of natural sponge.
It’s never going to be my favourite piece of work, but I am now happy with it and won’t be embarrassed if somebody sees it. I spent quite a lot of time over that week fiddling around, putting it to one side, coming back to it, trying something else, and ultimately it was worth spending the time on it. If nothing else, it’s a good creative exercise to try and figure out how to fix something. If everything works perfectly first time then you miss out on the chance of finding something that surprises you.