Walkways, finished

There was a great debate in the comments section of yesterday’s sketch about the educational value of posting an unfinished or unsuccessful work. I was very torn about what to do, but in the end the teacher in me won out.

A few days ago I started this street scene but never completed it. My first wash was wet-on-dry and I wasn’t very satisfied so I tried to wash it out and paint wet-in-wet. This turned out to be a disaster because the pigment I had used in the sky stained the paper. My intention was to have a gray mix in the upper right corner but when I attempted to rinse it, the blue washed away and I was left with a horrible brown stain in the sky. No matter. I persisted to add colour but the underpainting gave a dirty glow to everything. I abandoned mid-way through.


 A few days later I made a colour sketch to clarify the direction I was going to take and posted that yesterday. Below is the finished painting. This time I chose a 300lb Winsor Newton paper and proceeded with caution. It is easy to get overly excited when you are starting a painting and jump right into adding colour to the paper. But in this case, planning the values first and the colours second helped me to know where I was going.


83 Comments on “Walkways, finished”

  1. Lee Kline says:

    Who says showing unfinished, misdirected disasters is not educational? I appreciated the comments you made about the work going wrong and your attempts to save it. Your final result was worth all the headaches. Beautiful.

  2. Cathy Dempse says:

    Showing the “disaster” only makes the final painting that much better. I found it educational to see how the shift in color (especially in the sky) creates a feeling of winter. Thank you for showing both.

  3. Sue says:

    Love the picture! Watching and hearing about your process gives me hope and tenacity to continue. Thank you…

  4. This is a beautiful work! Now a stupid question: Why did you add a tree? 🙂

  5. Shari,
    Thanks for posting that. It is nice to see the comparison. Yes the final is very powerful! I love the depth and clarity and brightness of the light. It is interesting to see the struggle and the final outcome.

  6. Valerie Cousins says:

    That is a gorgeous painting and I loved following its process. By the way, I just came back from a new exhibit at the McMichael Museum in Kleinburg, Ontario. There are many group of seven paintings in it and some of which are new to us because they have been in private collections. For many of the paintings, they had the artist’s oil sketch on small panel right beside the finished large work. It was a wonderful pairing, so you’re in good company, Shari!

    • Thanks Valerie! It was fun to post the process too. I will have to look up that exhibit. I would love to see it. Apparently there are some sketches at the National Gallery too but I haven’t seen those either. Thanks for letting me know about that.

  7. Bruce says:

    “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

    – Thomas Edison

  8. Ross C says:

    Yes, very educational, and this is what I learned…
    – that really excellent work is probably the result of good planning, multiple trials and heaps of practice
    – that people walking down the street in Montreal can grow overnight… be careful!
    – that Shari doesn’t have the faintest idea what a “disaster” looks like… I could show you some disasters
    – that Shari can’t stop teaching, even when she leaves school… good news for people going to her workshops
    – that Shari is not clever enough to think that she could have used this for two posts… which might have helped on one of those busy days.
    So, this is the new standard for your daily posts… right? : )

    • Right. Two sketches every day from now on. Working up to three sketches per day.
      Thanks for all the promotion Ross.
      I couldn’t post my “disaster” on it’s own. I had to put them both together even though I could have stretched it out. The teacher says that the lesson had to be taught all on the same day.

  9. Don McNulty says:

    What a pleasure the final one is to look at, just great. I have been looking at Edgar Whitney’s book and your painting made me think of it, I hope you see that as a compliment, I mean it to be. I read somewhere his style is passé, I don’t think so, ever.

    • Of course I take this as a compliment Don. Ed Whitney was never the best painter but always the best teacher. And I think he said that himself. I don’t think he even had a very distinctive painting style but I’ll never forget the theory. It’s classic design theory that can be applied to anything from music to graphic design to interior design…

  10. Jane Hannah says:

    Hi Shari :: I have to say “wow”! Your last painting is intelligent and artistic — you are a smart artist. And actually, I like your first one too, even though it has less detail than your final one — it is very nice too. So your disaster to me, is very very nice also.

  11. Unfinished work can give a glimpse into the process. I enjoy catching a glimpse of that, though seldom get a chance.

  12. dogear6 says:

    Shari – I enjoyed seeing your creative process in getting to the finished product. Your comment on how doing the values first and then the colors helped you see where you were going is no different than an author who takes time to outline their book first. Done correctly, it can save a lot of time in writing and not ending up in deadends or with a lot of discards in the rewrite.

    I sympathize that you don’t like looking at your “failures” but I don’t see it as a failure. I see it as part of the creative process.


  13. ashanam says:

    I rather like your “failed” painting. The dirty glow suggests 4:30 or so–just pre-sunset.

  14. Brett Higham says:

    I’m definitely with the group here! Showing mistakes and understanding them is even more important than our successes. So important to anyone’s process!

  15. joy says:

    Much prefer the “unfinished” look, no street furniture, a non specific sky that could be anytime. Lets face it you are the only one who knows what it’s supposed to be.

  16. Mrs. P says:

    Very nice. I took a look at your next post, Colour sketch for Walkway and I have to say that I like this one better. Wish I had your talent. 🙂

  17. YarOn says:

    In real life as in realism (painting), re-visits allow you to accept reality, reflect on your preference and make informed progress. Thanks for sharing. I come from a different but related field and am involved in city planning and community engagement. Your current entry is worth sharing which I will do shortly. You might be interested in taking some inspiration from my sidewalk: start here (http://wp.me/pOx8k-cC) and move on to newer posts.

  18. sourcookies says:

    I really like your sketches unfinished on not. Afterall, unfinished is another point of a view!

  19. Billy Bibbit says:

    Great to be taken through the creative process with regards to, what turned out to be, an excellent piece of work.

  20. I liked both the paintings; each conveys something different to me. The first one says dreary, dirty, hopeless; and the second one says hope, light, optimism. 🙂

  21. Fascinating (and educational) to see both versions! Thanks for posting this!

  22. segmation says:

    What beautiful colors in your sketch! Thanks for sharing.

  23. queen4evr125 says:

    Your work is so full of life and beauty…Thank you for sharing it with the world !!!

  24. dymmcom says:

    Beautiful work. My nephew is 17 years old and his paintings are amazing. I showed it to him, and he was very impressed. Keep it up.

  25. jaajaabor says:

    Congrats on being “freshly pressed”. Happy to see a Mtl bog on FP!!
    I am not a sketcher but I would sure love to observe the urban sketchers in action someday !

  26. Wonderful images, really! Thanks for sharing and congrats on FP!

  27. Allyson Mellone says:

    Hi Shari, I enjoyed viewing both watercolors (are they watercolors?) I don’t, though, think that the top sketch is unsuccessful at all. I see the brown stain in the sky as being an unexpected quality of the painting that becomes an important detail for the walk into the painting – walking to some place different and farther then a walk to the end of the block.

  28. Grumpa Joe says:

    There are times when the first try is the best, and any second attempt only disappoints. In this case your second attempt is certainly in the category of learning form experience. You did a masterful job of turning a blah scene into something that is alive!

  29. dfeickert25 says:

    I really enjoy your drawings and paintings

  30. littlewing says:


  31. dzisperado says:

    Great aquarels, seriously!

  32. Beautiful. Fascinating description of your creative process. I would’ve thought the final product was a photo if I didn’t know otherwise. Congrats on being FP.

  33. socalpb says:

    Its simply beautiful. The amount of detail that went the drawing is amazing. Great work!

  34. Your “disaster” just might be my cure or inspiration. Sometimes what we create finds its own life. Congrats on Fresh Press (which is far from a disaster).

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