Photographers keep everything. At least I do. I have every negative I've ever shot, going back decades. And now I have
digital files. Terabytes of them. When I make a print, there are usually test prints involved - and I sometimes hold onto those, as well. Each is often just a different version or interpretation of the image, and I've always felt those are worth keeping. Working from a negative or digital file means I can make an infinite number of these interpretations.
I never knew the true meaning of precious until I started drawing and painting. One drawing. One painting. No replication, at least nothing that I can then call an "original." There's only one of those.
So, what does one do when the painting isn't very good?
One paints over it.
This concept was foreign to me at first. After all, if I make a bad photograph, I can still hang onto to... just set it aside and come back to it later. If it never ever works out, then I can move on to the next negative or file, one with a slightly different exposure. Maybe the print never makes it out into the world, but I keep the file anyway. After all, how much room does a neg or digital file take up? Not much.
There's no way I can (or should) hold onto paintings that don't work. I don't have the space to do this, and there are only so many ways I can try to make it better. If it's a bust, it's a bust. It took me a little while to realize, and then accept, that my work in acrylic (especially as a beginner) is really just a matter of simply making progress. And that if I do away with the thought that something I've spent many, many hours on, is a "masterpiece" then I can let it go.
The first time I painted over a painting, I actually felt very liberated. It was empowering to think that I could simply start over. That I could make the bad one go away. That I could take what I'd learned from working on it and carry that knowledge with me to the next attempt. That, in the end, it's more about the process than anything else right now.
I have to admit, I do snap a photo of it before I brush a coat of paint on top of it. Perhaps at some point I won't feel a need to do so, but for now it feels okay to keep it around on my phone at the very least.
In the meantime, I'm getting more and more comfortable with the idea that just because I spend a lot of time on something, and there will only ever be one of it in the world, I can say goodbye and move on.
This was the first painting that I painted over. It's gone! But I learned something cool when I did it, and it's now a technique I've adopted in all my subsequent paintings. So, there's that.
Onward and upward!