Cultivating the Habit of Beauty
Keeping it Beautiful at Every Step
Sometimes a minor shortcoming can illustrate a larger point.
The image above is the completed underpainting for this week’s project. One thing you might notice is that the tones get cooler and bluer towards the bottom. As I got to the end of the working day, I ran out of the original paint mixture I made in the morning.
Rather than mixing another batch, I used a different tube of gray I’d prepared a long time ago. This had more Ivory Black in it, which has a bluer tone than Mars Black, which is a warmer and redder black. As a result, even though I’m only using “black and white”, the colors of the black are not consistent.
It’s not a huge problem. It won’t affect the function of the underpainting, and this layer will of course be covered over as the work progresses.
I don’t like it, though; it simply isn’t beautiful.
Had the color been uniform throughout, this layer would have had a stately, expressive quality that I think it now lacks. It would have been more than merely functional.
The Habit of Beauty
At every step along the way, I aim to produce something that could be hung on the wall. I want the drawing to be beautiful, I want the underpainting to be beautiful, and of course I want the final painting to be beautiful.
It’s part of my underlying philosophy of working. It’s much easier to fix errors in the beginning of the process than at the end. In the drawing stage, it would be simple to move the teacup to the right a little, while it would be very difficult to do that when I’m working on the final color layer.
In the same way, the habit of making beautiful work reinforces itself. It’s harder to make an ugly passage beautiful than it is to continue and augment the beauty that’s already there. Like any habit, it can and should be nurtured and developed.
As I said, this particular shortcoming isn’t a big deal. I’ll paint over it and move on. But, I think it’s wise to have the goal of keeping the work beautiful at every step along the way. Having that foremost in my consciousness makes it more likely that I’ll be satisfied with the final result.