The Problem with Restraint

The problem with restraint, in my view, is that it begets more restraint.

"Blushing Birds" 9 x 12 Pastel on Paper
View on my website

There are times when restraint is important, even for artists.  I remember the first pastel class where I had successfully been careful with my color choices and pastel strokes, and was amazed out the outcome when the painting was finished.  I learned that restraint paid off if used in a strategic manner.

Some of my favorite paintings are by the Fauves, because I love color.  One of the reasons I'm so fond of pastels is because their colors are hard to resist.  Once I had been painting for a few years though, I wanted to develop what I saw as a more mature style.  This meant I had to start exercising some restraint, and make choices that took my paintings in a clear direction, rather than abandoning them to the use of wild colors.

Years later, I'm struggling with the opposite problem.  Lately I've caught myself shying away from the bright colors, worried that they'll take over my paintings.  The "blushing birds" in the painting above sat for a few weeks in an unfinished state, full of neutrals, lights, and darks.  I couldn't figure out why I wasn't enjoying finishing the painting, so I decided to use my tried and true method of flipping and scrolling through pictures of artwork I enjoy looking at.  I realized that my poor birds were missing color, so I added the reds and brighter purples. The original background was only a field, with no sky.  One night I was reflecting in my mind what was still missing, and it dawned on me that the birds needed a bright blue sky.  I added in the turquoise, adjusted a few details, and the piece finally felt right.  Incidentally, I've read that artists should avoid plain old blue skies.  I tend to embrace them, since the typical sky here in San Diego County is blazing blue.

So going forward, I guess I'll be using restraint with a little more, well, restraint.

If you like birds or butterflies in art, visit my Winged Nature gallery!


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