Have you ever been two thirds into a painting and find you don’t know how to finish it?
This usually happens when working from photo reference that was cropped too close, there’s more story out there, you just can’t see it, or you veered away from your reference material with an idea, but found yourself lost in the forest. “The Girl in a Gold Dress” was the first scenario.
I liked what was happening up to this point, but could sense things could fall apart if I didn’t pay more attention to the unity. So this is the time that I need to start asking myself some questions:
- If I saw this painting (painted by someone else), and really liked it, what would it look like? It would be strong, and simply rendered.
- What would make it stronger? Simplify the color, nothing weakens a painting like patches of unrelated color. Too much color can fracture an image and that’s what was starting to happen here. Get rid of the red, blue and orange. Concentrate on the main golds and violets.
Things started to come around, less really is more.
The dress, though complex in it’s texture was fun to translate into staccato strokes of browns violets and golds.
After painting for awhile, we all have them. . . the stack of paintings, that won’t go away. There are small victories in certain areas, but the war was not won. They don’t warrant displaying, even in our own homes.
The best answer I’ve found to finally put them to rest, is making use of them, a repurpose paint-over. Here’s how I go about it:
- It’s easiest to select an old painting that is dominantly light to midtown in value. Darker paintings can be more difficult but intersting because initial lines don’t show up, using a grey mix of Ivory Black and White will work.
- Flip the painting upside down, which throws the original subject into abstraction, making it less distracting as the new painting takes form.
- Get some initial lay-in lines down, the general placement of things, too many lines promote confusion.
- Begin blocking in the large masses with paint and turpentine using large brushes.
In the lower third of this paint-over you can still make out the original portrait flipped upside down. I have massed in the large shapes, paying attention to the values as they relate to one another. An old painting is such a nice surface to work on, it is essentially an oil primed canvas.
There were some heavy paint areas in the original, resulting in some raised brush work, this serves as a challenge to paint even heavier so I can work them in.
The final image, notice I left some of the violet from the original painting. Allowing the old painting to show through can make the new work richer.