10 Things to Do with Your Painting When You’re Stuck

Kellie Day painting classes
Kellie Day painting classes

Student work in a Colorado media painting class

Often times when I teach, the crux for students is not starting or finishing a painting, but how to move through the middle. Here are ten things you can do with  your painting when you’re not sure where to go next!

ONE: Work on at least two paintings at once – so you can take a break from one, and work on the other when you get stuck.

TWO: Notice one thing that needs to be done, and focus on that one thing. What one thing is speaking to you the loudest? When that is done, you will see the next thing that needs to be done.

THREE: Relieve yourself of the pressure to know the whole plan with your painting. Each thing you do to your art changes the painting. Because the plan keeps changing, you have to be open to now knowing, and focus on what’s currently happening at the end of your brush.

Work on two paintings at once, so you can give yourself a break when you are tired of looking at one. ©Kellie Day

Work on two paintings at once, so you can give yourself a break when you are tired of looking at one.

FOUR: Have faith that if you keep painting it will be worthwhile. No matter what happens – a great outcome or a not-so-great outcome, you will have learned something. This is what you have to go through to get to the other side and make more paintings that you like.

FIVE: Be willing to go for it. Often my students (and I) will start a painting, have a nice composition and background, and the freeze up. It looks nice – we don’t want to risk ruining it by adding more paint. Yet we know it needs more – it’s not done yet. The only way to get through is to RISK. Try something, and see what happens.

SIX: Trust your intuition. What is the voice in your heart telling you to do next? Practice listening to it, and trusting it. Sometimes it will seem outlandish – the idea won’t make sense. Try it any way. This is how you expand and go behind your logical thinking to greater places!

SEVEN: Be willing to fail. Let go of the result. Painting is not for the weak at heart. You have to be brave and take chances, and this means being willing to fail. There is always more paint and canvas. To be an artist, you have to be willing to make a lot of bad paintings.


EIGHT: Here are a few things to try when you get stuck:

•  Try a new background color/s
•  Add some contrast – maybe a pop of black next to a pop of white, in the focal point of your painting.
•  Collage in a piece of decorative paper in an area that needs help.
•  Spray your painting with a water bottle while the paint is still wet, and let the paint drip. Then go back and add some detail when it’s dry
•  Get out some metallic paint or markers and add some bling
•  Make a few areas “pop” with a little bit of pastel – just a smidge.
•  Loosely outline your subject to give it emphasize. Stay loose and go out of the lines
•  Make sure your shapes and spaces are of varying sizes, for interest
•  Enhance your negative spaces
•  Leave the building. Get away and clear your head. Look at your painting again in two days.

Painting mixed media in our southwest Colorado class with kellie Day

Painting mixed media in our southwest Colorado class

NINE: The number one way you can often improve a painting is to go do something fun, for you! Like a weekend getaway, or a hike, or dinner with friends. Then you can return feeling upbeat, with fresh eyes.

TEN: Most of all, remember to stay loose in your entire painting process. Only at the end, perfect a few details to bring it all together. This way you can focus on big gesture, big color and big love throughout your process.

Contact me here if you have any questions. Thanks for stopping by!

Kellie Day mixed media artist




If you’d like to learn more, check out my online courses and bite-size classes here. OR if you’re local, visit my workshops page here.

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