5 Stages of Painting

"Horsepower" by Jane Barton, 8x10

“Horsepower” by Jane Barton, 8×10

Artists know that, in spite of what people think, creating a good painting is not a day on the playground. Some days are easier that others, but mostly it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to get what you want to say on the canvas.

"Taking the Lead" by Jane Barton 12x16

“Taking the Lead” by Jane Barton 12×16

I was teaching in my studio recently and glanced at the bulletin board that I’ve loaded with sketches, ideas and quotes. I had written down the 5 stages of grief at some point and laughed (yes, laughed) at how the same list applies to the work of an artist. If you are an artist I think you’ll be able to relate to this. If you’re a collector, this will give you some idea of how hard our work can be, but you also might find the list applies to your own work, whatever that may be. And, as in life, these stages don’t just run their course and then “you’re done.” They keep repeating. And we keep trying to paint that perfect painting. All artists have a studio full of paintings that will never see the light of a show, but the ones that work make it all worth while!

"Full Bloom at the Arizona Inn" by Jane Barton, 8x10

“Full Bloom at the Arizona Inn” by Jane Barton, 8×10

Here’s an idea of what these stages mean to me:

Denial: This is not bad…not the painting I had in my head when I started…but maybe this will work…
Anger: Why isn’t this working? Why can’t I find that color? Why can’t I draw a horse?
Bargaining: OK, if you (the Art God?) just let me get this one painting done in time for the show, I promise I’ll clean up my studio and give up popcorn…and maybe ice cream.
Depression: This is never going to work. What made me think I could paint?
Acceptance: Well, this is not bad. This is going to work for now and the next one will be even better. I hope. I just have to keep working at it and I will get as close as I can before I die.

Repeat 5 stages of Painting. Order may be shuffled as needed.
Good Luck! And don’t give up!

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  • DF Henderson

    “I shall give you hunger and pain, and sleepless nights.
    Also beauty and satisfaction known to few, and glimpses of the heavenly life.
    None of these shall you have continually, and of their coming and going, you shall not be foretold.” – Edwin Booth

    • Jane Barton

      Thanks for the comments–I had a feeling there were more of us who’ve
      experienced the 5 stages, but we all know that the rewards (“glimpses of
      heavenly life”–so true) are soooo great!

  • Mary Maxam

    Sounds pretty familiar, it really can be this way! Thank heavens that just before Denial, there’s Hope and Anticipation! Thanks for the thoughtful and fun post.

  • Geri Acosta

    We must be either a brave lot or totally insane to keep plugging along with a brush or pallette knife in our hand, creating as we go on each stroke. Talk about living in faith! Thanks for the reassurance of how similar we all are in staying in the process, and not in the results!

  • L Diane Johnson

    Very well put Jane!!

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