Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saving Grace

If you're using acrylics there's more flexibility when
a painting doesn't work. In my experience unless
you absolutely can't look at a piece -- and most of the time
even then -- the thing can be saved. Some of my favorite work
was rescued after a disappointing first showing, or a period
of gestation. I don't know how to explain it.

Changing a painting starts with analyzing what's
not working. In this case the sitter's face
and body were good, but her hair, the
background, her costume, even the chair and pillows all
needed work. I started by reducing and
changing her hair. I applied a blue undercoat
over her old hairdo which included a
headband that did not read right.
Then I painted the background -- first with
the dark blue on your right, then with an orangey
tan undercoat on the other side.

Right now I have several small things on the go, and none
of them is at the right place to show. What I failed to see
was the large 3 by 4 foot work on the easel which I
am working on slowly, slowly. The hard part of a rescue
is the helicopter hovering over the sinking ship, or the
planes coming in with the water bombs to save the
house just before the fire hits. In painting terms it's the
first stage, when you reblock the painting over top of
what can be saved. At this stage the old work is ugly, and
only pure faith and a sense of possibility keeps me going.

When the undercoat was dry I applied a loose coat
of bright yellow to create a glow behind the model.
I blocked in her ear, and started changing her
hair. That's as far as I got today. I'm just showing
you the part of the painting I'm working on. It's
actually a full figure and 36 x 48 inches.

But the good thing is the vision of what can be, the sense
of experimentation, and the knowledge that I know more
now than I knew that first time out, whether it was a
month ago, or a few years ago. Then my restoration instinct
helps salvage the good and turn that into a brand new painting.
Timing? Enough time has to have passed that I forget
what I was trying to do originally, and can move on to
making something different.

Have a wow!-you-know-what-this-thing-looks-good day.


James Parker said...

Very nice work. I really admire your use of color. And..I'd like to invite you to my Blog party...March 8..for a smile or two.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi James,

Thanks for dropping by and the invite. I'll check it out.


Liza Hirst said...

Your changes really were improvements, Barbara! The painting now has more depth.
I am always amazed at how different a painting can be perceived when you see it with a fresh look. I started a portrait commission yesterday, thinking it wasn't too bad and nearly finished. But when I saw it this morning I realized that the proportions weren't right at all and that there was still a lot of work to do on it. Sometimes it is definitely better to take your time with a painting!

Laurel Daniel said...

I love seeing these in-process pieces and look forward to the full bodied, finished and saved, "Grace". She's beautiful.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liza,

Thanks so much. They always tell us to stand back from the work. That's fine when you're working on an easel, but with smaller work, I tend to work at a table, and usually don't see what's not right until I go to photograph it for the blog. Then Yikes!

I have to work on the colour on this one. That and breaking up the space are the main challenges.

I have not seen you do a bad painting. You are such a great painter.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laurel,

I'm glad you like the process stuff. Sometimes it takes a long time.

Your sunsets and spring work are really inspiring.


Portrait Artist

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!