Re-Do:Why I Paint Over Old (and not so old) Paintings

As I may have mentioned before, the original theme for my senior portfolio project was emotions made visible as little light flowers. Sometimes those light flowers turned out well, and they actually appeared to express something. Sometimes they didn’t. When that happened, I would either put it aside (if it were on paper) or cover it up (if it were on canvas).

That’s sort of been my life with art. I either love something and want to hang it up right away, or there’s this intense sense of nagging each time I look at the artwork that makes me want to change it. To get rid of the nagging, I either can’t stop working on it or I immediately stop working on it and don’t go back to it for months.

Maybe it’s the perfectionist inside me. Never thinking anything is good enough until it’s perfect. Or at least something I can live with.

Or maybe it’s my artist’s intuition. I go with my gut when I paint, and when it tells me I’m wrong I listen. Sometimes this means that I just keep reworking my art until is sometime I’m satisfied with, or I start over completely. Cover it up with some gesso or another layer of paint and get the old, ugly version out of my mind.

abstract oil painting
Purple Storm, oil over acrylic on canvas

Whether I leave a canvas alone for hours or months before going back to it depends on my motivation and my ability to determine where I want the painting to go.

Purple Storm was initially one of my light flowers. The canvas originally contained a yellow background with a  blue flower that had three branches that came to meet each other while surrounding a red orb. The branches sort of looked like a heart, and it was definitely meant to represent love or something, but I pretty much hated it. It was my first painting of a light flower and it was not very satisfying.

I never added the painting to my portfolio for my senior art show, and a few weeks later I revisited the canvas. I didn’t even bother covering it with gesso before going to town with oil paint on the canvas.

Purple Storm is one of my earlier oil paintings. I wasn’t trying to perform some certain technique or make it look professional. I just wanted to get paint on canvas and create whatever came up. I used thick paint and rapid brush strokes to create what, to me at least, looks like a storm.

The eye is led by many lines to look at the light purple portion on the right side, and once you look there your eyes are drawn down to look below it, then the process begins again.

I’d like to say that I plan out each of my paintings step-by-step, but that isn’t true. Something happens when I pick up a paintbrush. Suddenly I know exactly what I’m doing and where everything should go. This doesn’t happen every time, as can be made obvious by my re-doing, but when it does it’s very satisfying. I feel like I have control of something.

It would be nice to have that feeling with more things in life. And if not immediate satisfaction, then the ability to see the problem and go over it – fix it.


One thought on “Re-Do:Why I Paint Over Old (and not so old) Paintings

  1. Pingback: Hate Is a Strong Word – KLH art

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