I’ve got one section of my studio that has a standing file holder on it. That’s basically a flat piece of plastic with other flat pieces of plastic sticking out of it in a perpendicular fashion. You put folders in between the plastic supports and they stand up there. For me it’s a place to put odds and ends. Mostly old drawings that I might not want to tuck away just yet or some half finished work. That happens every now and then. I start something but then don’t finish it. It’s far enough along that I don’t want to throw it out but I have no idea what to do next. In the file it goes. Today I decided to pull three things out of that file and look at them.

"Leaping Lord" Unfinished

“Leaping Lord” Unfinished

Since they’re not finished these have no names. So I’ll have to name them now. The first is “Leaping Lord”. Sometimes I think of it as “Unfinished Purple” but that’s too literal for me. I have no idea how old this one is. I’d guess it’s five to ten years old. It’s a technique I tried out a while ago and made some paintings of. It’s a monochrome watercolor technique. I use one thin layer of watercolor at a time and slowly build up color on the piece. It takes a long time because I have to wait for the watercolor to dry in between each layer of color I put down. I remember I finished about six to ten pieces in this style but never this one. I think it was the last one I did like this and ran out of patience. That said I kind of like this one as it is. I’ve written before about how purple is a tricky color to use but I really like the purple here. The problem is that I bit off more than I could chew.

There is no line work on this one as that was the last step I’d take. First I’d make the drawing. It doesn’t look like I made the drawing on this paper. I drew it separately, scanned it, and then printed it on watercolor paper. So the grey line under the watercolor is computer printed. It would eventually get obliterated anyway as I painted over it. Most of the other paintings I made in this style were smaller and less complex. “Leaping Lord” has a lot of parts. It’s not that it’s an especially complex drawing but for this technique it is. All those little stripes, circles, and shapes would have to be differentiated with different purples. Meanwhile I was only working with one transparent purple watercolor layered over and over again. I quickly reached the point where I couldn’t really get the purple any darker yet there still wasn’t enough tonal contrast in the piece. Looking at it again I still don’t see a way through. As an unfinished piece I do like it. I guess it’ll just have to stay that way for now.

Once again I’m not sure how old this next unfinished piece is. I’d guess three years or so. It dates back to the time I was trying to figure out a way to use markers as a finished technique. Once again it’s unnamed so I think I’ll call it ‘“Spring Worm”. It looks like I was also using a monochrome technique with this one except I used various shades and hues of green markers for the top image and various blue markers for the bottom. It looks like I spent a bit of time trying to figure this one out but never did. I didn’t do a color sketch. That was my problem.

"Spring Worm" Unfinished

“Spring Worm” Unfinished

Like the first piece this one also has the image printed on the paper via my inkjet printer. Then I went over the printed line with a thin green or blue marker. After that I tried to figure out the color. Looks like I failed miserably at it. I don’t like this one very much even as an unfinished piece. The darks aren’t dark enough and due to using marker it’s not really monochrome enough. There is too much color variation from green to green and blue to blue. Some greens have a little more yellow in them and some a little more blue. It doesn’t hold together and I should have figured it all out with a digital color sketch but I probably thought this was just going to be a quick piece but then it wasn’t. In the end I couldn’t fix the mess.

No date on my third unfinished piece either. Five years ago? Ten? Who knows? This time it’s gouache on paper. I’ll call it “Sunrise Poem”. It looks like I taped the sides on this one. I do that sometimes with my gouache paintings. That way when I pull the tape off at the end I have a nice clean edge. Lots of artists do this. I can tell I gave up on this one because I pulled the tape off. With other unfinished pieces I’ve left the tape on until I decide to finish the piece. That I took the tape off without finishing it means I gave up on it.

"Sunrise Poem" Unfinished

“Sunrise Poem” Unfinished

This one is unfinished because of a problem I’ve had with a few drawings. The positive and negative space looks good at the drawing stage. All the shapes and lines work together well. But in the color stage the shapes no longer play the same way. Usually because there is too much “Air” in the piece. Coloring the background of this piece yellow (or any color) makes the background too dominant. The whole “Face and Vase” interplay of positive and negative space of the spirals (now red and blue) and background disappears when they’re two distinct colors. Without color the eye connects the head to the neck-like thing to the right of it but with the color there it doesn’t. Everything that seemed connected in the drawing gets disconnected in the painting. When working with weird objects, shapes, and space I’ve had this problem happen before. In the end this one is merely okay. It’ll hang around as a cautionary tale. Nothing like tales of failure to send chills down the spine.