What’s in my recycle bin?

I post most of my paintings here on the blog and my instagram. I regard very few as “not good enough.” I wouldn’t have nearly a painting a day if I exerted rigorous quality control. Posting nearly everything helps me to be less precious and critical of my own work.

However, there are some paintings that I decide to bin without posting (and sometimes without finishing), for various reasons. Today, paradoxically, I’ll post some of the paintings I decided not to post. Let’s take a trip through my December recycle bin.

Kinds of Binned Paintings

Never Finished

The majority of the paintings that I bin are unfinished. I will generally do the first layer and decide it’s not a solid basis for further painting. It’s sort of an “easy come, easy go” philosophy.

I do think there is a lot to be said for pushing through even when you’re not satisfied with the beginning/middle of your painting or you have made a mistake. The middle is always messy, even for paintings that end up looking great (that’s why they call it “the messy middle”) and mistake recovery is probably the #1 skill in watercolor. But there’s also no reason to up the difficulty level unnecessarily. First layers are quick and it’s the easiest point to bail. If I’ve spent five minutes on a base layer that I hate, it’s often more fun to start over than to spend hours trying to make that five-minute mistake work.

Didn’t Come Out As I Wanted

Sometimes I finish a painting, but it starts to reach a point of being overworked while still looking messy. Usually when I feel this way, I post anyway. Occasionally I just give up. Here’s an example.

I felt I had done this in the wrong order by doing the cloud first and the mountain around it, but I tried to save it and I don’t feel it really working. The clouds, which involve a white mix, are so odd to me. I think that this one just sort of suffered from a lack of a plan.

Bad Vibes

This is paintings that are technically reasonable but for whatever reason I simply dislike them.

There’s a few technical things I dislike about this (the crow looks like a duck) but there are also technical things I like (the sunset colors). On the whole, it meets me quality standards, but something about it just makes me feel bad. I was going for a juxtaposition of urban and natural spaces, but instead I feel like I landed on a post-apocalyptic feel. I didn’t want to look at it anymore.


I finish and post almost every painting that gets to the 2 or more layers level. It’s pretty rare for me to bin a complete painting because I didn’t like it. It’s pretty common, however, to bin a first layer that didn’t come out so good. I will churn out first layers and toss them repeatedly! Part of this is just because I enjoy doing the first layer the most. Redoing a first layer is not a problem for me. Sometimes I don’t know where I want a painting to go until I noodle around with a burner first layer. It’s a bit like the way I did photography where I would just take a hundred shots of the same thing and then pick my favorite.