Loading Selected Work...

God Bless the Gremlins in the Flat File!

Since I’ve been painting a long time and know lots of painters I’ve decided I’m entitled to declare certain artistic truths. This post is about one of those truths that is almost magical in it’s concept.

If you are unhappy with a painting or a sketchbook page put it away. Close the book. Just plain get it out of your sight…for awhile. After several days (or longer) take another look and by golly (!) you will see your creation anew. Those wee beings that inhabit the spaces in artist’s storage areas have worked their magic and shazam, it’s not nearly as hopeless a piece of work as you thought!

The sketch done in San Diego’s famous Balboa Park is my most recent example. I was anxious to draw that lovely, complex tower as well as the palm trees which framed the towers so nicely. I was using a new fountain pen which held water soluble ink. The watercolor was added after the drawing. 

Sketch of Balboa Park – Ink & Watercolor
I left the park discontented with my sketch. The ink was much more fluid than I had anticipated and I lost most of the light patches in the top portion. Basically I was a bit grumpy with the whole thing. I closed the sketchbook and had a lovely dinner with my sketching buddy Brenda Swenson at my nephew’s restaurant very near the park. I didn’t open up that sketchbook for at least a week.
Balboa Park – San Diego

By the time I re-visited the sketch I found my attitude about it had improved greatly. I was able to look at the sketch itself and NOT what my mind had envisioned at the start of the drawing. The simple base of the tower with it’s sunlit side was a nice contrast to the complexity of the tower top. I added more dark greens, scattered some of the orange color found on the tallest palm tree in areas around the page, added the border on the upper right corner and included the story. Thankfully I had left that blank so it was perfect for the text. And that important white spot on the tower base? If I had left lots more light on the top portion, that space would not be so lovely. 

I can’t begin to recall all the times this has happened and I hear others talk about it too. We need distance to be able to judge what we have, not what we don’t have. Until we get to that stage, it does no good to address design problems. I now expect this to happen and stop before I’ve mucked up the whole thing. Distance is a good thing is many respects and very much so in painting. As for those dear little gremlins? I’m grateful they inhabit my flat file!


  1. Christine
    September 10, 2015

    A good reminder to just step away from the painting and let it rest and recover while the attitude does the same thing!

  2. Judy Schroeder
    October 12, 2015



Leave a Reply

Anti-Spam Quiz: