Situation Normal All Fouled Up*

This post is about things going wrong. You may imagine -at least I hope you imagine -that paintings roll off the Sardax production-line effortlessly, fully formed and perfect. Nothing of the sort of course.

These days things do generally proceed well but that is because I have learn a few things throughout my career that have helped me to foresee problems and minimise unexpected trouble.

The best way to a successful outcome, as any ship’s captain will tell you, is thorough planning. If you do not plan sooner or later unforeseen events will come and blow your brave little ship off course. It is very tempting to just set sail hoping for the best. Many times I have foolishly done so -I’m a bit of an impetuous sort driven by the fire of inspiration – and bitterly regretted later not spending a little time planning in advance, thinking about the steps I would proceed through. Previously I would have to imagine in my head how things would work out but these days it’s so easy to make a digital rough that there’s no excuse before the brush even hits the paper.

But even with good planning if things start to go wrong you can still find ways of getting out of trouble and at least disguising the mistakes that have been made.

There are many ways of ‘wriggling out” but take this portrait of retired Japanese dominatrix Mistress Waka as one example.


As is often my way I will start with the face and get this correct before continuing with the rest of the painting; after all why expend effort on the rest if the main focus is wrong?

So I pressed on but found out that the watercolour paper I had chosen was bringing out blotches in odd places-thankfully not the face-but I perhaps had spilt water on it previously and I was left with needing to cover the rough patches but looking like I meant to in the first place! So the chequered pattern on the panel in the background actually disguises some bad blotches and to a lesser extent the marble effect on the right hand wall. Thankfully after that was done I could bring the painting back on course but it was a situation that depressed me enough to consider ripping it up and starting again -a lot of cursing that day!

If you cannot retrieve the situation you may have to burn your bridges and go back to the start, something I have not had to do very often but which is quite humiliating. However it is not so bad as you have learnt from your mistakes what NOT to do and the result is far better than if you had pressed on with the previous effort. Though a lot of time has been wasted.

But doesn’t that all sound too rigid and what about freedom of thought and inspiration? Yes, of course you need that too and the unbridled imagination should come in the development stage but in the final painting it needs to be reined in and at that stage the head has to rule the heart.

Mistakes will occur..that’s understood but planning first will minimise trouble. If all else fails just start over!

* a more polite version of this popular acronym.

(Mistress Elizabeth Swan also makes her own blog-post about what goes wrong in her line of work)


3 thoughts on “SNAFU

  1. So very true! I wish I could get better at planning my stories but I keep finding characters want to take things in their own direction. The hardest thing is always seeing that things aren’t working and knowing which ones aren’t ever going to get fixed and consigning them to the bin. At least I’ve given up on starting to post stories before I know how the end is going to turn out!


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