Even though I follow a series of colour applications, I still run into that point in my painting that I like to call The Ugly Stage. It's that moment when I look at the pastel on my paper and feel a little overwhelmed. I can't completely see where the colours are taking me. I start to wonder if maybe i've made a mistake and doubt the process.
I don't think I'm the only artist that experiences this. I've heard the same doubts expressed in workshops that I've led. Learning artists who follow the cool-to-warm application system start to worry. They're ready to give up, or say things like "I'm not good at this". It's difficult to imagine the big picture and so easy to get caught up in the strangeness of what's in front of them.
The picture to the left is an example of when I thought "I've arrived at the ugly stage". I recognized that my painting was a little off technically. I doubted my reference choice. I wondered if I could get the results I was hoping for because I had lost sight of the bigger picture.
It could be so easy at this point to walk away from a painting, or even question the process and start dropping in the lightest colours or highlights to make the cow more believable.
If you encounter the same feelings of doubt halfway through a painting you might find comfort in knowing that many artists encounter The Ugly Stage in their painting process. However, it's how you move through that conflict that will determine your growth as an artist.
To the left is the finished piece. The introduction of warm colours is often what reassures me that I'm on the right track, and with a slow layering of colour and value, it eventually comes together.