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Don’t be afraid to ‘fail’

Having been through a period of ‘not painting particularly well’ David A Parfitt shares how it’s possible to go from ‘failure to failure without losing enthusiasm’ and regain the confidence to prepare for a major exhibition
Studio sketch, watercolour in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, 51⁄281⁄2in (1421.5cm). I am drawn to this image and will definitely make a painting from it. I will exclude the sun and decide about including it in the group of four

I always find choosing paintings for exhibitions quite stressful, something that seems to have intensified in the years since becoming a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI). I can show a group of up to four paintings at the annual exhibition, and I only submit what I consider to be my best possible watercolours. In this article I am going to talk about some of the paintings I intend to submit to the 2019 RI exhibition. I will look at my thought processes, how I came to my decisions, the places, the drawings and the paintings themselves.


When putting my paintings together I tend to look for a connecting theme – it could be subject matter, composition, mood/atmosphere or even the dominant colour. As soon as one exhibition finishes I start to plan for the following year and put my best paintings aside so that I have a number to choose from as the deadline approaches. Thus far in 2018 (at the time of writing) I have not painted particularly well and had only one painting of any note, thereby intensifying my anxiety.bitter experience of previous fallow times I have found it vital that I continue to paint, no matter the outcome, as eventually something good will happen. The significant moment this time came quite unexpectedly when, several days before writing this article, I did a demonstration for a local art group. Part of my preparation involved thinking about my approach to landscape painting. During the year I return to places that are, or have become, special to me, to observe, draw, paint and photograph them. These on-location drawings and sketches are vital because I rarely make paintings en plein air nowadays. The act of making a mark in response to a subject/image immediately commits that moment to memory, even though it may only be a few lines, but when looking at the drawing with the photograph, it immediately brings things back to life.

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About The Artist

Take your drawing and painting to the next level with inspiration, guidance and advice from this month's top contributing artists and tutors. Cover artist, David Parfitt, shares how it's possible to work through a non-productive period to paint your best painting yet. Haidee-Jo Summers invites you to paint everyday, unarranged objects to discover more about design and composition. We also include demonstrations showing how to apply the one-stroke watercolour method, use a variety of techniques to enliven your watercolours, paint silver objects and reflections in acrylics, achieve the texture of rocky landscapes in pastels, use photographs as a memory aid, bring a portrait to life in oils, capture animals' expressions, and much more. Whatever your subject matter or preferred medium, there's something for everyone, and when you've created your best work, enter our 2019 open competition for a chance to see your work exhibited, published in The Artist, and win one of 40 prizes worth over £17,000!