A Time to Destroy

Two weeks of work destroyed today.

Two weeks of work destroyed today.

Entry from Art Journal: 28th February, “I have begun working on a drawing in which I am not sure, from the very beginning, of the validity of the composition.  It is my “A Time to Reflect”.  I’m unsure but I want to give it a go.  Once more I am at L. de Puybaudet Galerie looking at the plate glass (with reflections).  On the left is a bit of rue de Seine with a guy walking away from the viewer.  I like the abstract balance of shapes but I’m still uncertain whether the eye will know where to look.  Matt says you look straight down the street but I hope that eventually the eye will be pulled toward the light and reflections in the glass.  Some compositions are sure things from the word ‘go’ but not this one.  But one must take risks and even seeing potential pitfalls, go ahead anyway – using one’s skills to avoid them – or – overcome them.  I’ve had a good run since I-don’t-know-when so if this one falls on its face, that is okay.”

Two weeks later and I loved working on “A Time to Reflect”.   I was in my element, happily returning to my drawing board each day to conjure up rue de Seine on my piece of paper.  Isn’t it peculiar how something which can be so enjoyable to produce can end up as a failed piece?   I have approached this type of subject matter so many times; Paris, wet streets, reflections in windows and a solitary figure.  I diligently and calmly worked.  No alarm bells rang.

Only in the past two days did they start to ring; very quietly at first, almost imperceptibly.  But over Saturday and Sunday the bells became shrill and insistent.  The work was at that stage where it had left the drawing board (where I sit) and was up at the easel (where I stand and work from a distance).  It was the ‘pulling together’ stage.   In this case, so much of the drawing seemed to be going as planned but I just couldn’t bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.  The joy of working slowly slid to intense frustration.  I felt that the plate glass window let down the whole composition.  More than that; the drawing was in essence a left side (street) and a right side (building with glass) which would not, under any circumstances, unite.  The work consisted of two unrelated parts instead of a whole…disunity.

Take a look.  The image below is what I was going to post to you this week.  Instead I messed around some more after I took this photo; more adjustments, more rubbing out, more colour added…(it’s turning to mud)  before admitting to myself that it was all over.

A Time to Reflect Coloured pencils on pescia paper. 360 x 406 mm. March 2014.

A Time to Reflect
Coloured pencils on pescia paper. 360 x 406 mm. March 2014.  Your eye doesn’t really know where it is supposed to look.

Actually once I had made up my mind that all was lost and ripped it up, it was a relief.  The nearly-right yet could-never-be-right work would not taunt me any more.

I liked so much of “A Time to Reflect” and yet, and yet…my efforts fell short.  Should I have listened to the warning thoughts which I wrote about on 28th February?  No, I’m glad I tried.   I’m bound to have learned something.   And at least I have the fun of blogging about it!  A time to reflect, a time to destroy…  As The Byrds sang, “I swear it’s not too late”.

Another one bites the dust.
May 2018.

Past articles I have written on this topic are Failures!   Art Hell and Art Hell 2

postscript: 24th April 2014.  Out of the ashes of this drawing a phoenix rose.  It is a drawing of the same area as my ruined drawing.  This drawing (finished yesterday) is testament that nothing is wasted.  Though I ripped up the drawing “A Time to Reflect” I learned from working on it and I put that knowledge into the newest drawing “Rue de l’Echaudé”.    The image below shows the new drawing and its post is here.

Rue de l'Echaude April 2014. A drawing of a Paris street pre-dawn.

Rue de l’Echaude
April 2014. A drawing of a Paris street pre-dawn.

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20 thoughts on “A Time to Destroy

  1. Camilla Loveridge

    I sense your fustration, julie….but is this not what creativity is all about….a journey through sweat and tears, as well as through those estatic moments that are beyond expression?! The outcome can rightly be diminished by the significance of the process. So many times i’ve been there, too! Some materials are more forgiving than others, and enable layering that goes places never planned. Love those moments, also! x

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Yes, Camilla, it is all part of the creativity process. Actually I feel okay about this. You win some, you lose some. I’m not in a state of misery over it. In fact thinking about what to do next.

  2. Sherry Telle

    I feel a sense of loss for the beautiful atmosphere that is so uniquely you. I see where this was 2 paintings in one and have done the same thing. Have I told you how much I love and appreciate your blog? It makes me remember what is important when I sit down to draw. It lets me know that even accomplished artists like yourself have the same doubts as I do. It encourages me to THINK before I just dive into a painting. Still I would have kept it, I still like the atmosphere and it doesn’t bother me that I am following the fellow walking down the street. But that is in part why your work is great and mine is well not. I will be taking a much more critical look at my compositions from now on and maybe bend your ear a bit?

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Bend my ear any time you like, Sherry. I’m so glad that you get something out of the blog. I wrote this failure post, not to communicate the message “poor little me” but to share that we all don’t get it right sometimes and this is all part and parcel of learning.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Ann – but I didn’t want a crop. I wanted the whole thing. Really, there was a lot I liked about it too – but I have to like EVERYTHING before I have it framed and send it out into the world…especially with a price on its head.

  3. anna warren portfolio

    The first thing I would say is that regardless of anyone else’s responses, you have to satisfy yourself, and if you are unconvinced by a piece then that is that, it has to go. But having said that, I actually do like this piece, I like the unconventional balance. My eye went straight to the left-hand side, but it did come back to peer in the window, and try and work out what you were giving us a hint of. Your technical skills are such that, unless there is a serious blunder of some kind (coffee spilt over the work, something like that!) your work will never really fail, so in the end your judgement has to be on aesthetics. Having an art journal is such a good idea – I keep all my ideas in my head, or jotted down in odd places as dot points. It must be so useful to go back and think ‘Aah, so that was what I was thinking back then …’ Today I will start an art journal! Always inspiring, thanks Julie!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I’m delighted, Anna, that I have inspired you to start an art journal. Have I mentioned that I am just finishing volume 11? I started writing my first in 1998. It isn’t something which I have to write in every day but only when I have thoughts to put down. I’ve told all three daughters that they are to be looked after when I’m gone.
      What you wrote about having to satisfy yourself regarding each work – is perfect. Couldn’t agree more.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        The journal is started! But I don’t think it will be of interest to posterity, just for me. Sixteen years of journals is very impressive. But my travel journals/sketchbooks, those I will want to have looked after!

      2. juliepodstolski Post author

        I was thinking about you, Anna, while I was having coffee with Matt and wondering if you were starting your journal. Meh – let posterity take care of itself. For us now, to keep a record of our ideas is what is important. Incidently, I just copied by hand what you wrote to me this morning into my art journal. So … your words of today are in my journal as well as yours. When we are in rest homes in decades to come, we can both look back at our journals!!!

  4. Anne Mccaughey

    Ahhhh Julie….know the feeling well, awful sinking sensation of barking up a wrong tree! Yet I still really liked it, I thought that the diagonal light line of windows reflected in the plane of glass acted as the director of the eye and the connection between the two sides, but it definitely read as two sides, so I suppose there is your answer. Great that you have the courage of your convictions and quality control!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Anne, quality control is really important isn’t it…if you want to keep your integrity as an artist.
      This is the first time in writing about failures that I have shown a completed work on the blog (rather than after I ripped it up). I didn’t feel brave enough to do that before but this time I thought “pourquoi pas?” (why not?).
      Today I feel refreshed and ready to think about what I might launch into next. I feel no regrets about doing THE RIP.

  5. stefan2009

    I wonder something. When you realize a drawing is missed, why do you tear it up ? To have no tentation to take it back ? And what do you do with the parts ? Do you throw them to the garbage can or do you keep them somewhere ?

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Stéphanie, I don’t like to keep work which is not quite right. I do not want to look at it again. Once it is ripped through, the parts go into the rubbish bin. This is just the way my personality is. My reasoning is that I find it too frustrating to look at work which didn’t work out. I can’t fix it so the errors just annoy me. I would rather that the piece was thoroughly gone.

  6. Barbara moore

    Your last post “a time to destroy” has left me thinking for quite some time before I responded to it.
    I guess we all have had those moments when we know in our hearts that the painting is not going quite right, and sometimes we just plow on regardless hoping all will be redeemed. I really ‘felt’ for you when reading that blog and in a sense it has helped me accept my failures (which are many). Because I admire your work immensely your dissatisfaction with the piece has in fact given me “permission” to accept my own shortcomings and strive to learn and further improve my art. So, Julie I thank you for sharing that experience with us, and wish you luck on your next painting. Look forward to seeing it!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Barbara, I very much appreciate your thoughtful reply. It IS worth ploughing on regardless when you are not sure as you have to be able to allow yourself the possibility of saving the work (and learning a lot in the process). I have had many drawings at precarious crossroads which I have pulled through. Lots of things make me think of riding horses including this subject. Sometimes you can have a near-fall (but right yourself) and sometimes you can totally be thrown to the ground. Ouch! But you dust off the dirt and get right back on. Once I had taken a plunge with this drawing I got back in the saddle and got thoroughly stuck into the next drawing – which is NOW finished.
      We all need to give ourselves permission to fail. If we didn’t give ourselves this permission, imagine how dull and safe our art would be, Barbara.

  7. Robyn Varpins

    did you know that the left side of a drawing is the past….and the right is the future….your eye had no where to go except a constricted past…not good for the soul


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