Beginning Artist Needing Tips

I took this photo of a local bridge. I started a watercolor interpretation of my photo. I am stuck because I am a beginning artist, and I am afraid I will make mistakes that will ruin what I’ve started. I don’t think I have the skill to finish this painting well, so I feel like I should put it aside until I have more skills. What would you advise? Should I just “go for it” and see how this painting turns out? Should I put it aside until I have more skills and feel more certain I can finish this painting well?

Thanks in advance,

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from a N00b.

I’ll share it anyway.

I’m absolutely SURE you Should finish this picture. it may not turn out; but you’ll see what doesn’t work , in context, when your efforts are done.

myself, I’ve gotten back into graphite drawings and the big reason WHY is the idea- that producing mistaken laden, homely drawings are practice for better and more skillful works of art in the future.

and hey!

if you look me up, I even did a homely self portrait of myself.

it doesn’t get much harder or more error-prone than that!

and anyways, you can always paint again the same scene when your skills have increased and you think you have figured out how to do a better job at it…

Thank you for your encouragement, tgp, to keep going! I’ll have to gag my inner perfectionist. :grin:

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One thing I’ve learned about watercolor is that it’s your interpretation of something, and that the way the colors blend create happy surprises. Enjoy your happy surprises!

I really think this is an excellent start. You have nice depth of color in the sky and rendered the water well. Absolutely keep going! I always get to a point where I think, “this is it! Gotta stop here because I’ve reached the limit of my abilities.” Every time I keep going I’m glad I did. That’s the moment when you force yourself to develop the skill.

What if you find a way to get this piece critiqued after you finish it? That way you can work through the challenge and then get really concrete what can improve for next time.

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I will! That is one of the reasons I love using watercolor. It’s a good mindset to let the colors create happy surprises. Often that is true, and if it’s not a happy surprise, I learn from it.

Thank you, Becky. It’s good to hear that when you pushed through you were glad you did. I agree that getting it critiqued would give me some concrete feedback.

Hi Kali. I totally understand where you are coming from, but I agree with the other members. Keep going. As Matt would say: what’s the worst than can happen? It’s only paper and paint. I have to constantly remind myself of that because, just like many others, I also want to get it right the first time… but skill building does require practice and “happy mistakes” that can turn into happy success. Do finish the painting, share it again when it is done or submit it for a critique. I look forward to seeing more of your art. Patricia.


Thanks for the tips. I will do it.

Done. Sick of it. Want to start over. Thanks for encouraging me to finish it. Maybe I’ll like it later.


This is great! You didn’t ruin it at all. I get the feeling of being sick of something, though. Just put it away for a bit!

You captured the photo really well. The tough part was getting the detail of the bridge, but I think you simplified it really well.

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Thank you, Becky! I think I stressed out too much about it. After putting it away, I remember the delight of painting the details and how much I enjoyed it. That’s what it’s about for me.

Hi Kali:

Definitely go for it, and finish as much as you are able to. It looks good; I would say look at your bridge and see the white highlights - you’ll have to bring them back in your painting (by lifting, it’s possible). And remember, since this is watercolor, nothing is really forever. You can go back into it at some point, and fix what you don’t like (it won’t be perfect, but this is a great opportunity to practice, tweak and think about it, yes?)

In taking a break, you will have a fresh eye when you come back, and will know what you want to do next.

Good luck, can’t wait to see it in the next stage you reach!


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Hey, @kalpelm, this is a post from a 34 year old who started doodling really crappy shapes with really crappy shading a year and a half ago and couldn’t draw a straight line to save his life. I have something to share with you!

It might not be on the same level as yours technically, but this was a game changing improvement for me in about five months time.

The “painting” on the left was from my wife’s push to stop being scared and try out my new crappy walmart acrylics. (They were crappy.) Up to that point I had just been attempting pencil. It’s a representation of how my personal depression sometimes feels. I’m honestly embarrassed by it, but I want it to serve a point I’ll come to in a moment.

The second painting is something I’m deeply proud of, because it represents a turning point where I’m actually able to reproduce images I have in my head. It’s a character of mine staring out into an alien world. This exact scene has been in my mind for three years. Is it a masterpiece? God no, it’s nowhere near the realism that I want to be able to achieve. Am I proud of how the sky turned out, how there’s light from the sun across the water? That the first figure I attempted turned out to be an identifiable woman? Yes, yes I am. And that makes it a successful piece in my journey.

You’re probably getting what I’m hinting at here.

If you were objectively looking at both paintings without concept, what would you consider a success? To me, these both represent personal successes even though they are VASTLY different. The first was when I was scared to hold a paintbrush and incredibly reluctant to do anything because I knew I sucked at painting. The second is when I had tried (and failed) a few times and decided “you know what? I think I’m just going to go for it and see what happens.”

So. My “1 weird TRICK FOR BETTER ART!” for you is this: don’t give up on yourself. Start looking at your work objectively from your own standpoint and take a step back. Ask yourself, what do I like about this? What do I hate about this? What do I want to achieve? What do I need to get there? What should I do differently? Filter out other people’s opinions and whoever you’re comparing yourself to. (I compare myself to James Gurney, he’s my childhood hero, and that ain’t gonna get me anywhere!!!)

Also, that “this is a slog” feeling? It is perfectly perfectly reasonable to step away from a piece and start something else. If you don’t love what you’re trying to make, or if the scene or concept doesn’t excite you, I think that translates to the actual work you do.

EDIT: Oh, also! Sleep on it. Literally, take your work, cover it, and forget about it for a day or two. Come back fresh and evaluate it. My GOD does this help lol. When you’re staring at something and ripping it apart intensively to the point you want to scream walking away and coming back is a good way to look at your work and start to pick out what or what isn’t working.

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I’m really struck on how your personal NEED to express yourself motivated you to gain this skill.

I appreciate that viewpoint.

ty for sharing it.

PS; the improvement between the paintings is absolutely undeniable , starstudiolyra. congratulations! .

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Thank you for your thoughtful note. You have an artist’s heart and are very encouraging. Thank you for sharing your beginning work with me. I get your metaphor. Your message means a lot to me. I take your ideas to heart.

Hey, sorry so late in responding. These are great tips—appreciated!

When I get stuck on something I am working on, I will set it up on one side or upside down and work on something else. Quite often you will ‘see’ your mistakes and then you can pick it back up and maybe make it look more finished, Like what was posted about what Matt had said. - what do you have to lose? Paper, paint, a little time. You might just roll it up and hide it in a corner and come back, unroll it, and finish it the best you can. You might get to the point that you do want to start over. Everything we do is a learning experience.

Lenora - ArtistLittleNora

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