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The Ugly Stage

Every painting has an ugly stage. You know when you are about 30% into it and its not working out the way you want and your mind starts telling you how awful it is and how this isn't the direction you wanted go...Sound familiar?

This is the ugly stage on my recent painting... (30% done)

I blocked it in plein air, and took photos. I didn't have enough time to paint it alla prima, so I left it at this. It sat on my easel for a week. I stopped going in the studio because I didn't want to see it. It called to me from the doorway every time I passed by, haunting me, reminding me that it was stuck in the ugly stage.

I think of the "block in" stage as the ugly stage. Block in is a pastel term, and refers to when you get the big abstract shapes of the composition down first, then start refining edges, etc. It still has the germ of my vision for this painting, it just needs much more time and finesse.

The same is true for that stack of rejects we all have; paintings trapped in the ugly phase waiting for their moment at redemption. Give them a chance and don't give up until you have worked it up to finished.

Here's a few more minutes into the painting process. The palms are being refined through negative space painting, color added to grasses and the painting is about 60% done now.

Still not pretty but the vision is coming through and you are getting a feel for the play of lights and darks. In pastel, you don't always work from dark to light, sometimes you have to work from back to front. This is an example.

This is with another hour's worth of effort...

Last touches on this painting are the texture of the seagrasses and shape of the backlit sand. I'm glad I didn't give up on it in the ugly stage, and wipe it down, which is what happens to more than half my paintings! This painting turned out to be one of my better paintings.

"Sand Key" (Clearwater) Pastel on 12x16 Ampersand Pastelbord available $600


I like when you paint "loose as a goose"!!😀

Replying to

Doesn’t she do wonders with a so called “ugly stage”! 😜


I’m glad you persisted with it and didn’t let the ‘block in’ win! It’s gorgeous! I really luv seeing the stages it went through... it was a real eye opener to see the transformation of the ugly into the beauty! I learn so very much from these blogs...thank you and keep them coming! Until next time, Ali 👏💜

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