Mar 12, 2011

When is a Painting finished?

22" x 22" Acrylic on Canvas. Painting by Flora Doehler, 2011.

Occasionally I'll read an article about some old Masters painting that was x-rayed to reveal another painting underneath. The writer will seem amazed and surprised by this. Oh, if those writers only knew how common this is for painters!

These past couple of weeks I've been trying to discipline myself to finish up some of the unfinished canvases I have accumulated in the studio.

These paintings are under the finished piece. I still like the first one. It was fresh and spontaneous. However, I prefer my latest version of this.

I found some paintings that I don't like anymore. Either they don't intrigue me or they just don't have the movements and/or color that I like to achieve.

When I'm not happy with the outcome of the painting I like to use it as a background for a new one. So rather than paint the whole thing out in one colour and start 'fresh', I like to incorporate aspects of that old painting into the new.

Pushing the paint away to reveal the colours underneath.

This painting morphed several times. In its last three incarnations it hung in my studio like a reproach saying “are you really satisfied with me?” I would stare back at it and try to imagine what it could be. I'd pick out the parts that I really liked and visualize how I could retain them and change the rest. I'd think about what colors to obliterate and then every 6 months I'd take it off the wall and work on it some more.

Tulips lift my heart!
Still inspired by yet more tulips that I found in Digby at the grocery store, I decided to turn this back into a tulip painting. I wanted to calm down the yellow and red while retaining glimpses of those exciting colours. 

I squirted matte medium over the entire canvas and then brushed first blue paint, then green over the canvas in strategic places. I used my rubber tipped color shaper to pull away some of the blue and green pants to reveal the tulips underneath.

Adding matt medium slows down the drying time so there is time to shape and scrape the surface.

Finally, I brushed some red and yellow on top of the painting to suggest the tulips.

I am happy with the outcome of this painting. I like the colours now. The green and blue create a movement in the painting that I think expresses the energy those flowers transmit. The tulips explode to the surface.

However, that could change in another 6 months. When is a painting finished? That can be a very tricky question.

I paint on a flat surface so that the matt medium and fluid acrylics don't run.

What do you do with your abandoned paintings? And how do you know when a piece is finished?

I'm loving that green that I bought in Vancouver and flew out here to the east coast last November.

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