I just finished this painting, Omni
, (60"x30") for my upcoming exhibit at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art
in Telluride, CO. It will be the biggest piece in either of my upcoming shows (the other is at Darnell Fine Art
in Santa Fe, NM.) The past few weeks have been an intense push to get ready for both of these exhibits, to be shared with encaustic artist Shawna Moore.
They open only a week apart--October 1 in Santa Fe and October 7 in Telluride--and somehow two dual shows equal more than one solo show, with the galleries requesting between 10 and 15 pieces. So I have almost 30 paintings to deal with--to finish, in some cases, to photograph, enter into the computer, and pack up. Since Shawna and I are also teaching a collaborative Hot wax/Cold Wax Workshop at each location, the logistics of pulling it all off are mind-boggling.
Still, to work well it is necessary to shut out all the demands and requirements of travel, exhibit and workshop planning, and simply be in the painting. As I ought to know, a painting evolves in its own time, in its own way, and generally will not cooperate if rushed or forced. I'm sure I have learned this a thousand times by now, but it can still be a challenge when under a deadline. Even though I should know better, I tend to resist making big changes when a painting for an upcoming show seems to be nearing completion...even if that is exactly what the painting needs.
The painting above presented just that situation, and I was mired in it for days. Until this past Wednesday, its largest panel was dark green/turquoise in color, with coppery highlights. It was a beautiful, complex and highly developed surface, and I kept going back into it and making it ever more rich and deep. I added the other panels, and worked it all over again and again. I longed for it to reach a happy ending, as soon as possible.
But Wednesday morning, in a moment of brutal honesty, I acknowledged the truth. This was a static and tired painting, and adding more of what was already there was not the answer. The large panel had grown dull and heavy--no matter how many times I went back in to add flecks of color--and the other panels were not sufficient to wake it up.
So--the answer was to abandon caution and go for radical change. I covered the whole surface of the large panel with light gold (metallic) paint and cold wax for luminosity, and then began working over that with a brayer and white paint/wax mixture. Immediately the surface was energized, as bits of the underlying green and copper came up through the top layer, and deliberate scratching and use of solvents revealed more in selected areas. Now instead of a large field of dark green and copper, there were small, intense focal spots, which carried considerably more weight and impact, and the whole painting seemed lighter and able to breathe. Today I finished the piece by going over certain areas again with white, and adding the kind of subtle refinements that are distinctive in my work. The three supporting panels, which had appeared a bit random in earlier incarnations, now came into their own with a bit more tweaking and color adjustment.
When I teach I often tell the students that nothing is lost by going over a dull or confused panel with a new layer of paint and wax, and much may be gained. I only wish I had a "before" photo to better illustrate the changes that this painting went through. It would be a good reminder for myself when I need it...