The Mental Stages of a Slow Painting

I paint on a professional level.

In my spare time I also like to paint.

But in my spare time I like to try new techniques and media. I rarely take any big risks, so most of my experimental art turns out pretty cool. But until the painting is completed, I pretty much loathe it. And I often take progress photos to remind myself of the change.

I know that I’m going to hate the painting until it’s finished. I know I’m going to be tempted–every time–to quit and toss the canvas in the trash, chalking it up as a failed attempt at something new. Because I know I’m going to always have that initial sense of failure, I started taking progress photos. When a painting is finished and I’m really pleased with how it turned out, it’s nice to flip through the earlier stages of the painting–the stages when I wanted to give up.

It’s a reminder to finish my work.

Here are some examples of the art and mental progress:

This is horrible and the shading is all wrong. Nothing pops. It’s too blah. 

Nope, I was wrong. It worked out.


I chose the wrong colors. What was I thinking? I drew his face wrong. This is garbage.

Seriously? Half blue/half yellow? You’re fired. Just stop now.

I’m okay with this.

I’m also okay with this.


Looking good. Just don’t screw it up.

These colors are not complimenting each other. You should’ve just done blues.

A rainbow threw up on your canvas. Are you proud of yourself? You made a rainbow sick.

Heavy black outline was smart. But it’s still not good.

Way to pull it together there.


This has potential. Don’t mess up the dark shading or his nose. You know you’re bad at noses. Open your eyes and paint the depth, not a cartoon.

You have succeeded.


Oh sweet lord, you do not have the skills to paint this expression. You have to think of more than the image. There is depth and musculature.

This has potential to be ruined if you make one mistake.

Good eye, but can you do the other? How about the nose? You’re bad at noses. Go to bed and come back refreshed tomorrow.

You’ve gotten this far. Don’t mess it up now. Get those shadows right!

You managed the muzzle. How did you manage that? Okay… deep breath. Do that chin right.

You have pulled this off.

Good. Now bring me that dog for real. I want to kiss the smooshy face.

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