Letting Things Simmer
Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Some paintings are years in the making. Often the first stab at something will not work, or the second or third stab. Sometimes I struggle with a painting, and it feels like I'm throwing everything at it but nothing seems to improve it. That's when I need to put it away for a few days, months or even years before taking it out again. Letting things "simmer" helps get some distance from a subject so I can see it with new perspective. It also helps me detach from all of the hours of work already sunk into the process. If a painting becomes too "precious" because I fear I could make it worse with any alterations, I will not have the courage to do what needs to be done. When I become willing to do a complete makeover, I know the simmering is complete.
Here is an example of a painting that went through several iterations.
First I did a small 11" x 14"study of the subject, which I loved.
Then I did a larger 18" x 24" painting based on the study. I did not love it. I was aiming for the looseness of the smaller painting but the composition was not as dynamic and the colors lacked the harmony of the study.
I edited the larger painting again, probably 6 months later.
The colors were much improved (though cooler than the study). I framed it and called it good. It wasn't until I pulled it off the wall a year later that I finally got the idea to change the composition, by adding the trees in the foreground, like in the original study!
The trees in the foreground make for a much more interesting composition. The color harmony is now much warmer, similar to the study, but with more earth tones than in the original study. I'm pretty happy with it now. But who knows, I might decide to change it again if it does not sell!