Friday, July 02, 2010

When a painting goes badly...

"Hydrangeas Near the Window" - Oil - 20" x 24"

"For a few weeks each summer, my three hydrangea bushes offer their color-drenched pom poms. The fully round ones bloom first, so if I miss painting them, I get a second chance with a new strain that has fewer petals and more interesting shapes." --- SFG


The night before I started this painting, I had given a talk on color that was delightfully well received, so I went into the studio full of vinegar and sure that I'd produce a masterpiece. The expectation and the reality proved to be far removed.

The setup was lovely and inspiring.

However, the composition that fell onto my canvas didn't work well.

That light behind the bouquet was distracting from the bouquet itself and when I put down the color, it was off. (Sorry, no picture survived at that stage.) The folds on the right were awkward, and the composition didn't balance.

When I returned to the studio the next day, the drape had fallen and the painting had not improved overnight. (Believe me, sometimes little gremlins come in and change things.) I felt that the darker color behind the left side of the flowers would work better, so I left the drape as it was.

Whether better or not, I wasn't sure, but I decided to run with this version. I've found that, when unsure, it's better to become more aggressive, making firm decisions and confident strokes, than to wallow in the mess.

I de-emphasized the folds on the right and changed the pink vase to another blossom. For better balance, I added the pear in the lower left.

I developed the blooms in the main bouquet and added the reflections in the glass vase. I was still struggling, but it was getting better.

In the final version, I had changed the pink book - it looked awkward before and did not sit well in that dark corner - and scattered a few more blooms and petals around. Accents and details keep the focus on the main bouquet as the center of interest, but there is a satisfying rhythm through the work now. In the end I got what I wanted, the cool light from the window and how it gives unexpected and appealing color throughout the scene.


Kerri Settle said...

Thank you for all those wonderful work in progress photos and for describing how the painting evolved as it went along. The end result is full of life and color and interest; a definite winner! Glad you stuck with it!

Susan F. Greaves said...

Thanks Kerri. Never, never, never,never, never give up! (I mean this to apply to painting itself. For a variety of reasons, some paintings are destined for the trash heap. It's more a state of mind as you are painting than a perfect setup, model, or vista.)