I don’t know who said the thing about “unaliving* your darlings” – but I do know it’s been advice given to new writers for an eon about how ruthless a writer must be when they edit, and while I agree with that (I’m also a writer), it doesn’t transfer well to mixed media art.


Because, look, this is where I left the painting you see above as we wrapped up the latest PTTM:

It’s just okay, right? I mean. It’s cute, sure, and it’s what I had time for, but it wasn’t quite right and it didn’t make me *ridiculously* happy. That copper in the center doesn’t do anything for me all alone like that. The bee’s legs aren’t dark enough for my liking. The lettering is “meh”. The background is too samey samey.
It needed more, so after I finished my work for the day, I snatched it up and took a few deep breaths and asked it what it wanted, and that led me to image you see at the top of this post.
Turns out all it needed was a little love and attention, some lime green and more stenciling, and a word sticker to love it up so that I reached the nirvana that is best described as “OH YES, ARTGASM”.

So, I don’t kill my darlings. I keep going until I’m happy.

Sometimes that requires me to step away for a while, which lets me see things more clearly. Sometimes I’ll put the painting on the painty table and just let it sit there until the next step suggests itself. In this case, I fiddled with the tiny details first – adding a bolder outline around the leaves, and darkening the legs on the fuzz butt. I scrubbed out the lettering because it just wasn’t working for me, and walked away for a while to make myself a steak dinner.

When I came back to the table, I caught sight of a bottle of bright lime green Nova paint out of the corner of my eye and my whole body said YES. Then I realized I’d lost most of the honeycomb stenciling I’d put in the background so I brought it back with layers of copper and gold. I added little bits of furry black in the body of the bee and slapped on a sticker. A border in black finished it up and voila.
Back when I first started dabbling in mixed media art, I had zero patience with myself at all. I had no skills. I didn’t know how the mediums I was using worked together. I failed and failed and failed and failed and so many paintings ended up in the trash UNTIL one day I realized that I wasn’t giving myself enough time or space to fail *well*. I needed to become more critical (in the good way) of what was happening on the page. I needed to start asking myself questions about what I didn’t like and what I could do so that I liked it. I began experimenting with the push-pull of adding and subtracting. Do a little of this, push some of it back, pull some of THAT BIT forward. Add a little more of this.

It’s a bit like a dance, and I’ve really grown to love it.

Does doing this dance mean I’m ridiculously happy and in love with every single thing I do? No. It doesn’t mean that. It does mean I fail better, though. It means that instead of tossing a thing in the garbage, I examine it. I look closely. I learn about what went wrong for me and how I might change it so it works better. At the end of every session, I want to feel as though I delighted myself OR as though I learned something really valuable that I can take into my next session.
P.S. Because I’m a nerd, I went in search of some info on “Killing Your Darlings” and here you go. Now we know.
*I titled this post “Unalive Your Darlings?” because the algorithms are stupid.