Metamorphosis of an Old Work Part 1

The Need for Artistic Metamorphosis.

I am going to write today about the need for artistic metamorphosis, no, I am not talking about the artist’s need for personal growth.  I am talking about those works the artist steps back and looks at, and thinks that the work itself needs to be transformed.  I’ll explain…

Promising Beginnings before Apparent Ruin

Every artist has those works that started out with great promise, but which, during the process of creation, took a turn for the worse.  You those works that started out great, and then at some point the artist steps back and thinks, “Oh… now look at that… I’ve completely ruined it.”

Most often, when this happens to me, I do one of two things.  Either I’ll grab some gesso or some titanium white and paint out everything on the canvas so that I can use the canvas for something else.  Or, I’ll toss the canvas into the back of a closet or cabinet, thinking, “Maybe someday I’ll I’ll figure out how to fix that, but for now I just don’t want anyone to see it!”  If I choose the latter, the work usually sits in that closet or cabinet forever.  It seems I never do pull them back out to rework, or almost never, sometimes there are exceptions.

The Diamond in the Pile of Coal

Occasionally, I’ll see something in the painting that I feel is worth salvaging, some element that I feel has enough potential to make it worth the extra effort of fixing the mistakes. A little diamond hidden in what is otherwise a pile of coal.

For example, there is this painting:

A painting full of mistakes
This painting started with promise, I love the covered bridge, but I got carried away with fall leaves in the foreground, making it impossible to see the background at all, and destroying any appearance of depth.

I started this painting during my first year of painting.  I hadn’t yet learned many of the tricks to creating realism and depth in landscapes.  I started with the covered bridge and did a really good job.  I really liked what I saw with the bridge, especially inside the tunnel.  I felt that it was really going somewhere.  Then I started adding in fall trees in the foreground before I had done any background landscape, this caused the picture to look really odd in the places where you could see through the trees.  So, I made the trees thicker, until you couldn’t see through them at all.  This eliminated those odd looking spaces, but also gave everything but the bridge a strange one-dimensional appearance.

Not only that but I didn’t have any detail in the foreground trees.  They would have looked fine off in the distance like that, but up close I felt I should have given at least a hint of definition in the leaves.

I tossed the painting in the cabinet, and left it until today.  I got it out again and started looking at it.  I still really liked the bridge, but now I noticed problems I hadn’t even noticed before.  The road leading to the bridge seemed off, like the angle of the railings didn’t quite fit the perspective of the rest of the painting.

The Metamorphosis Begins

I decided to rework the painting, salvaging just the covered bridge, and redoing everything else.

The first step in doing that was to white out everything I wanted gone with titanium white, and then paint in the parts of the bridge that had been covered up with the leaves.

Here was what I whited out first, but later decided I needed to cover more.
Here was what I whited out first, but later decided I needed to cover more.

Later, I decided I needed to white out even more, and it now looks like this:

Okay, so now my diamond is freed from the coal all around it, but it still needs to be set in a lovely piece of jewelry.
Okay, so now my diamond is freed from the coal all around it, but it still needs to be placed in a nice setting.

This is what the painting looks like so far.  I will update as its metamorphosis continues, and we shall see if I can salvage the diamond from the coal mine, and make it into something worthy to be shown to others.