At the end, not giving up was certainly the right thing to do with this commission.
To me, it is really important that I can be proud of the artworks that I create, especially so when it is a commission. I believe when I can look at my painting and know that I've truly and honestly given it my best, the client will be happy with it as well.
However, last week I started creating a commissioned portrait of an imaginary character that my client had described to me. I'm very used to being able paint everything rather easily, succeeding at the first go but now, for the first time ever, I found myself disliking the painting the more I painted it.
On the right, you can see my first attempt to paint this commissioned character. Instead of a beautiful woman she was supposed to be, she started to look more and more like a zombie to me. I didn't proceed any further with this painting, for I knew I'd have to start over again. This was not going to be something that I could happily give to a paying client.
Since I had never been in a situation like this, I certainly did not expect to fail my second attempt as well.
This time I fully finished the painting but once I did so, I could not get myself to like it. No matter which way I was looking at it, I knew in my heart I was not happy with the painting. It was too plain and did not look alive to me. I could see my own struggle reflected on the paper.
I asked myself what I should do differently to make this commission be something I can be proud of. Something, that would look like a human being and not a doll.
The answer was simple: Find a reference. A smarter person would've gone for that option from the very beginning but it seems I was too used to being able to paint things without relying on references too much and sometimes (read: very often) for me to realize my mistakes I need to hit my head hard to find my way out.
So, the third and final attempt I created with a help of a reference photo and (surprise!) this time I was happy with the result. I changed some things for the painting according to my client's description of the character, but to use a photo reference as a base on which to build the character was definitely a better option than my first two attempts. I'm sure you see the difference in the work-in-progress pictures in the gallery below.
Lastly, what did I learn from this experience?
-First, if you don't succeed the first time, try, try again. You'll get it right eventually.
-Second: It's no use trying the same method twice. If the first method doesn't work, something about it needs to be changed.
-Third: Use references if needed. Obviously.