The Way Of The Dodo

I’ve worked on one painting all week and it seems it’s going “the way of the Dodo” (pronounced dd) . I know, I know, I dwell on this subject—the subject of failed works that is; I guess because it’s so heart wrenching when it happens.

It’s what Molly Barnes (How To Get Hung ,  Journey Editions) aptly defines as “dreadful, gut-sinking, morale-lowering moments that come with unsuccessful experiments” and 18283938.jpgshe says that it’s a “numbing fear that comes with exposing your soul”. It makes me ask, “why do you put yourself through this”. I don’t know what I’m expecting other than the obvious–better results, more often.

My question to myself should be “why do I keep making the same mistakes” because, when I look at it, there does seem to be a theme running through all the failures–one of over-working, loosing the values (or never really having them to begin with) and no direction in composition. This should be easily resolved by taking a bit more time in the beginning stages of a piece–make sure the large values are right to begin with, have some inkling of the color scheme/time of day, have an idea in mind of what the finished piece will look like so I have something to shoot for. Peters and Waterman ( In Search Of Excellence , HarperBusiness), in their assessment of successful corporations, concludes that “the magic is simply getting the basics right” . This is true in painting also.

Late In The Day 11x14 oil on canvasI’m apparently not one of these painters who can just start slapping on paint and then look for a direction to go; maybe if I were doing abstracts, maybe. Also, staying with the same piece day after day, can be detrimental to the outcome; I’m better off when I have several things going at once and switch off between them, giving my eye time to refresh from an image.

Sometimes a scene gives you almost everything; it’s right in front of you waiting to be painted. Many times though, it’s not, and so I shouldn’t expect to be able to just dive in with every piece. I like to say–sometimes a painting just falls from the brush but other times it must be scraped off; maybe I should add–and sometimes it goes the way of the Dodo.

Late In The Day (destroyed) 11×14 oil on canvas MTMcClanahan

Drawing Of A Dodo 17th century Dutch


MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at

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