Just as it’s unfair to discount the good elements in our work when judging it, it’s also a disservice to ourselves to fail to acknowledge its weaknesses. It’s actually beneficial to take conscious note of shortcomings and to set goals for overcoming or improving on them in future work. That’s the value of the School of Oops.
I try to identify in specific words what it is about a work that dissatisfies me. What problems do I see? If I were to undertake the same project again, what would I change? How would I approach it differently to improve the results? Is there anything that can be addressed immediately to strengthen and improve the work I’m evaluating now?
In the original drawing I did of my great-grandmother, Sarah Slater, there were many aspects of the drawing that I liked. But I also recognized and was able to specifically identify a number of weaknesses. I recognized that my drawing skills were not adequately developed. Among other things, the value range was too limited. And her expression appeared too “worried.”
A second attempt, only two months later, for which I used the same reference photo and charcoal instead of pencil, showed a lot of improvement. By using the softer, darker medium of charcoal, I was able to show more marked gradation where planes met. And the two months between drawings had allotted me enough practice time to increase both my skill and confidence in expressing my subject’s mood.
The key to the improvements was in having recognized and identified the problems in the original drawing. This meant that I was able to focus on those areas in my intervening practice work to find solutions and to hone my skills.
So I’m encouraged to continue this study of portraiture. I expect to be getting back into more color work soon. Stay tuned.