Mountains and Flowers and Sky….Oh, My!

“Vexation,” 11 x 14 oil on canvas

by Tonya R. Hengerer


     I started painting about a year ago, and I’ve probably painted fewer than 10 paintings—total.  I am a novice. I always have a flutter of anxiety before beginning a new painting, worrying that my next endeavor will be terrible. When I paint, I usually use a photo reference.  Occasionally, I’ll use another painting, especially if I’m practicing technique.

     Back in October, I signed up for an oil painting course.  Farmguy and I had been traveling right before the first class, and it slipped my mind to choose a reference photo for my class painting.  So, I ended up choosing a photo (last minute) that had a simple landscape (or, so I thought) of a mountain, flowers, and sky.  I later learned…the hard way… that although a photograph may be beautiful, it may not necessarily translate into a good painting.

     I spent days working on this artwork. I even started over several times, scraping off ALL the paint that I’d applied with a palette knife—lots of fun.  The painting actually evolved to a point where it wasn’t bad, but it still wasn’t exactly right. So, after overcoming the urge to fling it becoming frustrated, I decided to start over…. again. This time I would paint a mountain, flowers, and sky from my imagination—without a photo reference.  This may sound simple…..if you’re Bob Ross.  But, not so simple if you’re Farmgirl.  Yeah, there were no “happy trees”—or happy anything during this process.  To say that I felt stressed out by this painting would be an understatement.  However, I was determined to complete my simple landscape, without a photo reference…come hell or high water as the saying goes.

     Other paintings I’d finished in the past were decent, some better than decent.  And, a few friends had even requested a painting.  Most importantly, I’d enjoyed creating this artwork.  But now—I. Was. So. Frustrated. I remember asking Farmguy, “What do you think?”  After a thoughtful pause, he answered, “It’s not your best work.”  So, back to the easel I went.  After more time facing my nemesis, Farmguy shared that he thought the painting was better and suggested that I just let this one go.  He was right.  And, I did.

Other Paintings by Farmgirl


Here’s the thing:

     I learned a couple of valuable lessons.  First, I learned that I need a photo reference at this early point in my painting experience, and that’s okay.  I also learned that letting go is sometimes just as important as perseverance.  I’m content that I completed the painting as well as gained more experience with using oil paints and palette knives.  However, I realize that I could’ve completed more paintings in the same amount of time, using a photo reference, instead of being enslaved to the idea of having to finish this one.  Plus, I probably would’ve enjoyed the painting process much more.  I chose “getting it right” over moving on and painting something in a manner in which I could be successful.  It occurred to me that sometimes we do this in our everyday lives, too–choosing perceived rightness or perfection over happiness.  And, it’s just not worth it. My landscape painting may not be perfect or my best work.  But, I don’t care anymore…and that makes me happy.  🙂



  1. Wonderful metaphor with the choice of perceived-perfection vs happiness. You’re really getting good. I truly enjoy all of them, maybe the rooster most. I want to walk through that Vexation field. I feel like I can smell it. It’s welcoming, and yet, it feels like a private space.
    I never have been good at painting. My parents disagree, but they’re MY PARENTS. I may, one day, when my nest is empty, dabble in some art classes, but I am done dabbling in perfection 😉


    • Thank you for your lovely comment and kind words of support, Joey. I think the rooster is my favorite, too. I also appreciate your positive feedback about my Vexation field. 😊💛

      Overall, I’ve really enjoyed painting. Given that you’re such a creative person, I’m sure you would excel at it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are clearly very talented and your paintings worthy of wall space in any gallery or home …. your story reminds me of a very smart man who once said to my husband ‘you must learn to recognise when enough is good enough’ …. we try to practice that in our lives and I guess that landscape is proof that the theory is sound – after all, if you hadn’t walked away when enough was good enough, if you hadn’t admitted that it wasn’t going to get any better then you might still be there scraping yet more paint off the easel and what a waste of life that would be! 🎨

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very talented, I agree, and I love the rooster. I am also just a little jealous as I would love to be able to paint, my mother in law was a fantastic artist, I have ancestors who were quite well known in their field, our children are all artistic, but me, I am quite quite useless! I try but my drawings produce nothing but fits of giggles and so I stick to the camera and words!! Keep going, you quite obviously have a talent that I certainly do not have! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so nice! Thank you. The rooster is still one of my favorites as well. How wonderful to have so much artistic talent in your family! And, of course, photography and writing are lovely art forms, too. I so enjoy your beautiful blog. Many thanks for your kind encouragement. 😊 xo


  4. Tonya, I really loved this blog. If I were as good as you are with words, I could have written it myself, as I have experienced many of those same emotions when painting. It can be so satisfying and rewarding when the stars align, yet so frustrating when they don’t (and as you pointed out, that goes for life, as well). It’s tough to come to the realization that a painting is not and will not work to the point of starting over or giving up, but once there, it can be very liberating. (You should get yourself a pair of those socks that you gave me for Christmas for those occasions 😉
    I too have a new appreciation for Bob Ross and the happy trees that sprung from his imagination. I have tried to paint without a reference photo, and it generally does not go over very well!
    Your paintings are wonderful! I’m glad to see you’re still at it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Donna. And, I know you certainly can identify. I should’ve just ditched the whole thing a lot earlier. I chose the photo reference in a rush, and by the time I realized it wasn’t that great, I felt tied to it. That’s why I stayed with the mountain, flower, sky theme. Anyway, at least I was painting! In the end, I’m happy I completed it. Next time, I’ll change gears much sooner. You’re right–i do need a pair of those socks….for inspiration. As always, a big thank you for your kindness, encouragement, and friendship. 😊


  5. Well that is certainly a better landscape painting than I could ever attempt! You know, I’ve always liked your rooster painting, with that free-form style. Perhaps that is your “talent” with painting, using that style? You never know! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Whenever I struggle with a painting, I find that the next one is a lot easier. It helps me get through the struggle knowing it isn’t for nothing. You have some beautiful paintings. Keep it up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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