Have you heard of the messy middle?

There are endless ways to begin a painting but often what gives artists the most difficulty is pushing through what’s sometimes called the ‘messy middle.’ This is the place where what might have begun well begins to lose shape. It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look like the vision in our head. We begin to doubt ourselves and less experienced artists may be tempted to give up altogether.

Trust the Process

However, with experience you learn that this is part of the painting creation process. The solution is to be brave and trust the process. Trust that if you keep going you will be able to create something beautiful. If you’re feeling frustrated, take a break. Go for a walk, put it away for a day or two, or just sleep on it and try again in the morning. Just don’t give up.

In the first two posts and videos in this series I looked at preparing for a commission and some of my favorite ways of beginning a painting. I warmed up my canvasses with big gestural marks with charcoal, followed by layers of collage and rough layers of translucent whites and buff neutrals. My next step is to begin blocking in shapes with color.

I’m working predominantly with my palette knives, but you’ll see I switch to big brushes, tiny brushes, sticks and even a little mop I picked up at the hardware store.


When I’m working at home in North Carolina you’ll see I often wear my big headphones because I share the space with my husband. He doesn’t always appreciate my music choices and of course doesn’t want my music blasting into his zoom conference calls! Working from shared spaces at home has its own unique challenges, right?

Anyway, I’m quite happy with how the paintings have progressed at this stage. Once they are dry, I use graphite to trace big gestural, intuitive marks again. I’m not drawing so much as tracing imaginary lines of connection between the marks on the surface and my visual and sensual memories of place in my head. It’s a little difficult to explain but it’s all about connection.

Then I go back to mixing more colors in a limited palette, and work with composition until I like what emerges. I had a bit of a painting the “messy middle” but I pressed on knowing I had to trust the process – that if I kept going I would be able to work it to where I would love it.

The paintings in this video were a commission. If you’re curious about how commissions work, take a look at the first video and post in this series. If you’re interested in commissioning your own painting head on over to my website at www.colleenkasterart.com/commissions and contact me with any questions you have. Getting started really is that simple.

Watch the Video

Enjoy watching me work in the video below – hours and hours and days of working compressed and edited into just a few minutes of viewing. If only it were really that quick! Lol!

Missed the First Videos?

Watch the first video here:

Watch the second video here:

View more of my work here:

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