Re-working old paintings

How do you know when a painting is 'finished'? Mmm, that's a difficult one. Sometimes you think it's finished but after afew days of living with it and staring at it and thinking about it, you think more can be done and so you do a few more little tweeks. Then you might try hanging it in a different room, with different lighting. This can often come as a bit of a shock, as you realise it looks completely different to how you thought it looked when working on it all that time. At this point you rush it back into the studio in horror to do some emergency alterations! I go through pains for days and sometimes months with this process of just not being sure that a painting is really 'finished'. Although having said that, there are some pieces that seem to scream out to you that they don't need any more work and that you just need to stop. These are the paintings you never touch again and often they just seem to work really well. There is always the danger of 'over working' a piece though, which can be equaly as fatal! On occassions, as I'm going to talk about here, you just get bored and fed-up with trying so hard and settle for the work as being finished. Every time you glance at it though, you know something just isn't working and often these paintings are a slight embarassement that you hide in a dark corner and hope that no-one will notice them. So, I had a couple of these paintings that were really bugging me as not being right. This doubt and a reluctance to re-work them didn't just linger on for weeks or months, I had them for years before finally cracking and deciding to make the necessary changes. The first one I re-worked was this painting titled 'Brighter than the Moon'. When I first came up with the idea, I wanted the boys in the picture to be holding something so bright it even eclipsed the moonlight. It was supposed to be a light of hope in the darkness signified by the woods, so powerful and sacred that the children were protected even from the dangerous wolves circling them. The first attempt was alright and the colours worked on one level but just didn't really express what I was trying to say with this piece.

(ABOVE : Original 'finished' painting 'Brighter Than the Moon' before re-working)

I decided to keep everything in it's place as I really liked the composition and the drawing. I just needed to darken the whole thing so that the light in the boys' hands became the brightest tone. I also used cooler colours so that the light looked warmer in contrast. Also I was never happy with the clothes the boys were wearing. It put them in a certain time which I didn't want. I changed them into non-descript sort of body suits which became unnoticeable. I made the wolves look more manacing to add more of a sense of danger, thus highlighting the protection of the children by the light.

(ABOVE : Painting 'Brighter Than the Moon' after re-working)

I really like the new version of this painting and now I would say it is finished to the best of my level of abilities.

The second painting that I've recently re-worked titled 'Nightime Carousel', lingered un-finished but 'finished' for five long years. I always loved the composition but the colours turned my stomach and I just couldn't bear to look at it any longer! I never liked the figure either and always felt the cat was too big and in the wrong position. So taking a deep breath I painted over anything yellow I could see. It looked so awful at this point that I feared I would never be able to resurrect it. I just kept going and painted over the figure from the legs up.

(ABOVE : Original 'finished' painting 'Nightime Carousel' before re-working)

I decided to go for cooler colours so that it looked less brash. Of course the whole idea of a carousel is that it's brash but there are subtler ways of showing this, what possesed me to go for acid yellow I'll never know! So after I'd changed the colours on the carousel, I then adjusted the colours it reflected accordingly and then re-painted the girl's body and head. I also put the cat in a different position and made it smaller.

(ABOVE : Painting 'Nightime Carousel' after re-working)

Now I really like this painting and I have it in prime position in the studio. I'm sure that another artist would come along and see it as un-finished and would quite possibly paint over the whole thing but I've given it my best shot and won't be spending another moment on it, therefore I'll safely say, 'it's finished'!!

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