I have been working on a very large painting for just about 3 months now. I am determined to get it just right, and I'm going insane, painting and re-painting one section of the face in particular for the last month and a half. I only spend about 8 hours a week on it and I'm working at a crawling pace to make sure I'm doing it right. Before this crawling pace, I had re-painted the head about 20 times, expecting that each time I scrapped it down and re-painted it, the right strokes would just flow out as easily as other parts of the painting.
It for some reason made me think of Richard Schmid and his writing about patience. He touches on it lightly in his book Alla Prima, but when grazing through the book, I couldn't find what I was looking for.
After some searching, I found it in a word document I made a few years ago compiling Richard's old "Notes from the Hayloft" that he used to write on an older version of his website.
. . . some measure of perseverance and tenacity is necessary at various (and often unpredictable) times throughout a painting. Sometimes things go smoothly and I can simply enjoy what I am doing. Other times I slam into a problem and the only way out is to slow down to a crawl, concentrate until my teeth hurt, and bring every faculty I have to bear on getting exactly what I want, no matter how long it takes. It's more than simple endurance. It's real mental effort and the inspiration fairy has yet to appear at such times waving her magic wand of easy solutions. I alone must solve my problem. I have to clear my mind of everything else, think hard, analyze, explore my options, plan a strategy for the immediate situation, and then do whatever it takes. Sometimes it means scraping off what I have done and starting over again and again.It looks like I should finish the painting sometime in the next week or two and I'll be so happy when it's done. For the rest of the spring, I will be doing some smaller paintings and some plein air . . . which I can't wait for.
If your interested in Schmid's old "Notes from the Hayloft" check out the wayback machine and click through the old versions of his site: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://richardschmid.com