For the first time in many, many years, I’m trying to paint a face I just can’t capture.

The subject has beautiful big eyes and an enormous smile; I’ve tried to replicate them three times and keep producing something between Mexico’s Santa Muerte and Pennywhistle the clown.

Dare I say this is a good thing?

I was getting too cocky. In the past month or two, I’d completed five portraits that were probably the best I’d ever painted.

I was beginning to overestimate my skills, and my heart was filling with pride, rather than gratitude.


I just got booted back to base camp.

Maybe there are artists out there whose skills never fail. I’m not one of them.

Last night, after rerendering the eyes for the third time, and working over five hours on the smile, I soaked a big brush in turpentine and erased the whole mouth.

Now, I have to make a decision. Do I scrap the painting altogether, or go back and try again, even though I’m feeling defeated?

There’s really no reason to continue… it’s not like I’m working on a commissioned piece…

But what if I were? If I were a professional, and depended on this work for income, I’d have to grit my teeth, pick up my brushes, and power through, slogging until it came out right. Failure would not only lose me this commission, but harm my reputation and lessen my prospects of working again.

I’m not a professional. I’m a retired old woman who paints for fun.

But I’d like to be as good as a professional. Maybe even better. What’s the point of undertaking anything if one can’t rise above mediocrity?

Any old lady can sit at an easel and paint easy little pictures.

I don’t want to be one of them.

One thought on “Setback.

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