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What do I do with paintings that aren't good enough?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

One of the blessings of being prolific is that you can be ruthless with culling your work and keeping only the ones that truly resonate. (Currently, I only keep about 1 in 5 paintings. ) Surprised?

There are some artists who just "ooze" good paintings, but I'm in the vast majority of us who have to work on our skills and expression continuously. Which leaves the problem of waste. I just destroyed 97 paintings. My time wasn't wasted- I learned from each screw-up.,

But painting materials have always been expensive and are getting more expensive faster than the rate of inflation.

Of those 97 paintings, I was able to repurpose half of them by using thick body white oil paint on them with a large bristle brush. This allows me to keep an energetic textured surface to paint on next time. These repurposed supports ( that's what artists call the surfaces we paint on whether paper, canvas, or board) are my go-to panels for paintings that I want to have the fuzzy- edged impressionism look.

You may be surprised to learn that a hair dryer would help dry an oil painting. It speeds it up, but only minimally. I just wanted my dining room table back ASAP. Even with adding alkyd mediums that help dry the paint faster, it still took about a week to be fully dry to the touch due to the thickness of the paint and smooth painted canvases and panels do dry a bit quicker. Ones that I used a hairdryer on for 2-3 minutes dried only a day sooner.

paintings being recycled

The paintings I couldn't repurpose went in the trash - with a stroke of paint slashed across them so I wouldn't have second thoughts before garbage day!

No regrets! Now I have more space, more "blanks" AND I have more conviction that the true art doesn't live in what I created. Working towards excellence means knowing more and more which artworks are keepers based on my goals and standards. I have a long long way to go on that. It's highly tempting to try to guess and paint according to the goals and standards of others. What are your thoughts on that? If you're an artist, where do you sit in curating your work? I'd love to hear from you.

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