Paintings are like children. They go through developmental stages that can be stressful and a pain in the butt, but still wonderful to behold. So, before you toss that frustrating piece, read on to learn from this mom’s experience how patience and trust can turn it into something beautiful.

The first developmental stage of a new painting is the infancy stage where the artist is full of hopeful anticipation. When paint first touches canvas, creative spirit is high and the artist just knows that this will be the best painting ever!

Next, the toddler phase is when the artist attempts to apply all she knows about the medium to shape the painting into what was first imagined. Similar to the “terrible two’s”, there are challenges for sure —  cleaning up mistakes, applying artistic discipline and gently guiding the imagery towards the original vision. Much patience is needed, but nothing prepares the artist for the demands of the next phase . . .Adolescence!

“Who are you? What have you done with my sweet, endearing little one?” rage in my thoughts as I give my teenager daughter that “look” only a mom can deliver. So, meet my teenage painting. . . 

mixed media

I’ve worked and worked but nothing went right with this piece. I must have scraped and repainted it a dozen times, but I still wasn’t satisfied.

Luckily, experience has taught me to recognize when it’s time to back off. The more I push, the more push-back I’ll receive. I’ve been known to check up on my teenage daughter one too many times after a heated “discussion” and the results were always disastrous. Sometime it’s best to stop the meddling, walk away and allow emotions to settle and friction to dissolve between mother and daughter — artist and painting. The temptation to quit hovers in the air like a dark cloud, but that won’t solve a thing. Anyway, it’s more fun to see what will develop over time with a lot of love and patience.

Back at it the next morning refreshed, I still don’t understand the creation before me but I’m able to see it from a different perspective. Try a little of this, take away a little of that — ideas flow and something new begins to evolve. I’m surprised to realize that this painting was never meant to be a landscape after all, It’s a koi pond!


“Koi Garden” 24″x24″, encaustic mixed media


“Of course! Why didn’t I see that before?” I say to myself. Now, the work flows. I follow the creative spirit and the painting matures into what it was meant to be. If you’ve hit ultimate frustration mode, perhaps you’re trying too hard. Despite all our efforts as artists, a painting can not be forced into something it isn’t. There are developmental stages it must go through.  And, the same goes for our beautiful children. I humbly admit there have been times when I’ve tried too hard to manipulate both.

Please leave a comment on your creative process in painting and/or parenthood.