Painting Orchids and Remembering to Just Keep Going

Back in March I mentioned that I had a vision for a painting inspired by the flowers blooming in my home and studio. I was in a bit of a slump, but I did manage to mix some paint.

I actually had two painting ideas. A small one and a larger one. I figured I'd start small.

But then, with the very first petal, the painting failed. I hated how the paint flowed on the paper. I hated the way the colors mixed and blended and spread. It just wasn't working. At all.

I tried one more petal, but then stopped. The painting was a failure; the paper was ruined.

I used the paint in my sketchbooks playing around for my MATS assignment. And although I was happy with how my MATS assignment turned out, I felt bad for not using the paint for a real painting.

Somehow I just couldn't bring myself to get over that failure and move forward with the next one. I was a bit stuck. And uninspired. And crabby.

I think we all find ourselves in ruts like that from time to time. For whatever reason (or reasons or for no reason at all), sometimes we can shake off rejection or failure or disappointment and sometimes they overwhelm us.

But I was wrong about my failure. Painting two petals that didn't work out wasn't my failure. What's one ruined piece of paper? My failure was letting those petals, that ruined piece of paper, stop me in my tracks.

I know better than that.

What's the secret to not letting our creativity get derailed by mistakes and disappointments? It's both simple and challenging.

Just keep going.

(I've written about it before).

The tension between wanting to paint and wanting to quit is always there to some degree or another. Sometimes I have to fight hard against the voice in my head telling me that my painting is crap; sometimes that voice is easier to ignore.

I was determined to try again. I mixed my paint and after a wonderful weekend I felt inspired and ready.

watercolor, process, painting process, mixing paint, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

When a painting doesn't work out I don't usually start over with the exact same idea, but I really wanted to make this painting. And so when my paint was dry enough to use, I sat down to work.

With the very first petal I hated the way the painting was going. Again, the flow of the paint, the texture of the paper, the way the colors combined... I hated it all. But I refused to fail again in the same way I had before.

watercolor, process, painting process, botanical painting, orchids, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

So I kept going.

I fought with the paper* the entire time. I fought with that pesky inner critic the entire time, too.

watercolor, process, painting process, botanical painting, orchids, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I wanted to quit... much of the time.

But I didn't.

I just kept going.

The evening after I started work on the painting I received some wonderful, exciting news.

To me it seemed like a message from the universe. Yes, you're on the right track. (Later in the week I sold an original painting -- after a string of only selling prints -- and then my new Skillshare class was featured in their newsletter).

I'd been feeling such doubt. Such uncertainty.

Everyone does from time to time. But just as I can't let a failed brushstroke control the outcome of an entire painting, I can't let uncertainty and doubt control my days.

watercolor, process, painting process, botanical painting, orchids, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I shared my in-progress painting on Instagram this week. People were surprised by my frustration. They thought it looked great.

watercolor, botanical painting, orchids, watercolor orchid, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Eventually I began to like it. My opinion often shifts when I stick with a painting. There are a few things that rankle a bit, but not giving up made all the difference. Now that it's finished**, this painting's story makes it all the more special. It's not something that shows when looking at the it, and I doubt that it would help to sell it, but that doesn't matter. It brought me a message (not the first time painting an orchid as done that) and I'm grateful.

I don't know what you're struggling with. Whatever it is, here's to breaking free from uncertainty and doubt. Here's to overcoming mistakes and disappointments.

Just keep going.

*The longer I worked on this painting the more I realized that it was the nature of the hot pressed paper that was throwing me off. I've worked on it before and I didn't remember fighting with the paper as much. When I looked back at the first painting I did with the paper, it was interesting to see that I had a much different attitude then. I wrote, "It took some getting used to, but I let the paint do its thing, let it teach me". Wow. I'm going to take that thought with me to the next painting. I think we all could benefit from an attitude like that.

**This little orchid painting is now available in my shop


  1. Your perseverance paid off Anne. It is a beautiful painting with such pretty and vibrant colours. Well done on pushing through the negativity. Wishing you a happy weekend. :)

    1. Thank you, Simone!

      Hope you had a great weekend, too!

  2. Thank you Anne, your positive energy always helps me.

    Well, my week changed very quickly. My dad had a heart attack on Tuesday. He had open heart surgery with four bypasses. He is slowly recovering.

    It is a 2 1/2 hour drive to the hospital that my dad is at. I did spend the night Tuesday - Friday.

    I tell you, things can change in ones life so quick, it is a reminder to love each other every day.

    Thank you for listening,

    1. Hi, Carla, I am so sorry to hear about your Dad. You are so right about how quickly life can change. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget how important it is to love each other fully each day.

      Sending you love and thoughts for healing! (Don't forget to take care of yourself, too!!)

  3. A great message in this post, Anne. To keep going -- not matter what the circumstances -- is a victory. We can all learn from your words. I know I can. Hugs, Nancy

    1. Thank you, Nancy!!

      Sending hugs back your way. :)


Post a Comment