The frustration of not realising a vision


Being able to draw is great. No doubt about it. It’s not a fluke, it’s a skill, though. A skill I spend and have spent a considerable amount of time on. I always had a flair and a drive to draw, but lots of kids at my school had the flair. So many people just give it up for whatever reason. I never did, I think this is where the random ‘luck’ factor comes in – painting and drawing is a compulsion that I have, the rest is hard work and determination to do better. I got an oil paint set when I was 10 and it just kept going from there, I’ve been practicing ever since.

I’m still practicing. I set myself challenges and try to get better at what I’m doing.  Sometimes it’s a very frustrating journey.

Take this picture here above, newly finished. This is a beach landscape, based on a photo taken of Merricks Beach where I went for a wander last year in the middle of winter.

I am so frustrated by my lack of skill of how to paint landscapes to get an outcome I’m happy with. I’m not happy with this picture. It lacks everything I tried to do, though it’s an OK picture, it’s not ok to me.  I just haven’t done enough and learned enough tricks on reproducing what I want it to look like. I have to seriously and literally go back to the drawing board on how I approach landscapes. Success alludes me. It’s hard too cause other people say ‘that’s really good’ and I know that it’s a decent attempt but it’s not really good at all. The irony is that the landscapes I do tend to sell and people love them.  Though a friend at new years put it this way, and I agree: “you are good, but you’re not in the top 10% of good. Nearly there. Need more work”.  Absolutely. My landscapes are ORDINARY. I want out of ordinary.

There is only one landscape where I nailed what I wanted and I’ve been trying to recapture this magic ever since: I have no idea why this one worked – but the blobby shrubs in this look good whereas the blobby shrubs in the one i just posted, look like blobby shrubs.

Sold - Dunes and Sky

Sold – Dunes and Sky

I guess it’s the inconsistency of what a landscape is. If you are painting a person and it looks wrong, it’s usually obvious why it’s wrong. But landscape is actually very abstract on a small scale – you have to get the small scale right and then scale that up, also you have to do different things in getting perspective right or it looks funny. Lots of points of ‘what am I going to do here to make the person see the thing I want them to see by splooshing down some paint’.  If I’m painting a person, I paint what i see very readily;  a landscape though is full of decision points and I don’t yet have the experience to make the correct ones.

I have not done a lot of painting this year, including landscapes. For a start, up until mid Feb, its been putrid hot, then I did a short course – once a week on Thursday nights, in Timber House framing, which was good, however it tired me out so i was not up to much other than relaxing (jigsaws!) and my arthritis in my right hand flared up so the thought of brushwork was horrifying.  I’m also slowly repainting the outside of the house and that takes out big chunks of time which means I’m not so keen to be painting. These things are done or being done, however, so time to get back into painting and start again.

I did this picture the other week as a one session oil (ie to be done fast as a practice and finish it up in one sitting) -I’m pleased with it only because it kick started me off into landscape again. It’s not too bad. It’s not what i was going for at all though.


I need to do more deconstruction of the elements of a landscape and get them right I think, first. I might actually get out some of my favorite painters and just copy what they do as an experiment of working out how they get the stuff done. Sounds like a plan for now I guess.


5 responses to “The frustration of not realising a vision

  1. yes that one you like is really good. i can’t paint, but my hypothesis on trees etc is that our tree perception is dominated by edge detection rather than the more intuitive “patches of color” (there are too many leaves to perceive each one and then sum those perceptions into a whole – a problem i remember bothering me when i was about ten), so we visually recognise a leafy tree, say, by something like the statistical edge density – a green cloud of edges. those dark trees you painted have a very nice edginess (but i think you also were really on a roll in terms of just wrestling the paint into what you saw for that picture, for whatever mysterious psychological reason)

  2. This may sound weird but maybe you are fighting with (pardon the phrase) your mind’s eye versus what the photograph looks like. Your best work is not realism, though that landscape from Wyperfeld does have that certain something but it isn’t photo-realistic. It evokes the feeling of Wyperfeld if not the actuality. Does that make any sort of sense?

    • yeah i don’t want photo realistic, i want to invoke the mood. Hey you went with me to wyperfeld so you know the feeling of it! that’s really what i want to be doing. just with a lot more skill in handling and squishing around the paint. time to level up.

      • For Wyperfeld, it needs more corellas and cockies – a mix of serenity and god-awful screeching 😉
        I’m guessing you will find your ouevre with some more practice, find the thing that works for you, and I look forward to seeing it.
        Are oils or acrylics the right form?

Comments are closed.