Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Destroying paintings for disposal

I have been talking about throwing paintings away. I would remind you, that you must ruin them before you do. I have known artists who have found art they threw away, in a local antique shop. There are people out there who pull things out of the trash even at a transfer station. If I am throwing away a big stack of paintings on panel I cancel them with spray paint. There are very few people who can afford to have a restorer inpaint over a spray painted X. Very large panels can be set over a 2 x 4 on the floor and snapped in half with your foot. Paintings on canvas need to be removed from their stretchers, which you will keep, and slashed with a razor knife.

I am beginning a new project and I will chronicle the steps in its design and completion. It is a painting of the Perley Oak, in Laconia, New Hampshire.. This monumental tree is the largest White Oak in New Hampshire. It is over 20 feet in diameter and is over 400 years old. Unfortunately it is also sick. I have been commissioned by a private party to paint a picture of this tree before it is gone. Here is the first sketch that I made today.

This is a 9 x 12 done in raw umber. I intend this to be a autumn picture although I want the color to be very restrained, dull gold, russet and gray. It is still very green out there now though. I will probably paint a series of monochrome studies first, when I get the design happening I will either do a bigger one on location or in the studio from the studies. The finished painting will be an 18 by 24. A 9 x 12 has the same proportions as an 18 x 24, that's important when designing a piece, make sure your studies have the same proportions as your intended finished work.

I already know what the problem is with this study. it needs a lot more foreground, tomorrow I will go give it another shot. There is a pond in front of the oak and I want more of that. This tree is so huge it is a struggle getting the thing on to the canvas. I will let you see what happens next, tomorrow if the weather cooperates. I will show you another little trick to deal with designing a foreground into the piece.


Gregory Becker said...

Is it possible to paint over the old painting and save some money on newer materials?
If you want I would be more than happy to store your paintings at my house.

Jan Blencowe said...

I've known many artists who get a roaring bonfire going and then burn their old paintings. All swear that it's a wonderful cathartic experience.

It's getting chilly at night now so I'm thinking maybe nows a good time. (Ummm... pass the marshmallows)

Unknown said...

Yeah, especially for panels, couldn't you just sand them down a bit, and paint over a thin wash enough to camouflage the original composition?

Unknown said...

just now finally going over the posts I missed while in Utah because our laptop got water spilled on it. ( Let us now have a moment of silence....)
The post about drawing problems hit home, as I was one of those lucky few in the workshop. (which, I might add was the most informative, and exhausting, three days of Painting I've ever had) I think it was more tiring than the stupid race I just ran. I have to say thanks for being brutally honest with us, Stape. It wasn't easy answers, or false encouragement. It was getting slapped with the ugly reality that good painting is hard, hard, work, for long years, and if we can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, or just admit we only want to microwave frozen dinners.
I may have to START a figure drawing group if I can't find one.

Unknown said...

I always appreciate you showing your steps.

Unknown said...

It must be kind of fun to destroy something that didn't work out.

Thanks for the tip on proportions. I wouldn't have thought about that.

Carlos Ranna said...

I would say it´s nice if you are able to put something in the composition in order to show scale, since the tree is as huge as you say.... It doesn´t feel that big at the moment...

Stapleton Kearns said...

I texture paint with titanium and Pb. over the image sometimes after scraping it. I like to have some of those in stock, but only so many. For most of my paintings I want a clean new surface.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I live in too urban an environment for that.Redfield famously burned a huge pile of paintings in his driveway.Why would I want to be catheterized?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes you can, but be careful with that sanding. You may be sanding cadmium etc into an aerosol powder, don,t breath that.At least wet sand it, I use mineral spirits.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I came home exhausted too. I did enjoy being brutal though.Actually, I felt like it was cruel but needed to be said as it was for me thew elephant in the middle of the room.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks.There will be a bunch more, this thing is going to be hard, I can tell.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I completely disregarded my own advice today though, more about that later.

Barbara Carr said...

Normally, I lurk here, just absorbing all the good stuff for free, but I have to comment on the odd coincindence. I painted the Perley Oak (which I think is actually in Laconia) about ten years ago, but cut up the horrible result. I made some coasters out of the canvas. My biggest problem was getting the tree to look BIG. The tree just looks ordinary-sized unless there's someone standing near it. It's almost too huge to be believed; I can hardly wait to see how you solve this little problem!

Stapleton Kearns said...

My wife said the same thing. I am going to try to get more landscape around it to give comparative scale. I really don't want to put a little guy in there for scale, although perhaps I will have to.

willek said...

Carlson addresses the problem of making big trees look big. Are you going to follow his advise, I wonder? Would he follow it in this case?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Barabara, that was a typo, yes Laconia, not Lebanon. I proofread this blog over and over and stuff still gets by me.

Stapleton Kearns said...


There's a good idea. I got out my 1931 addition and have started to reread the chapter on trees. I think I could recite it out of the new editions, but the old edition has more text.

Michael King said...

Once a year, the family and I go camping. I round up all my duds and studies I no longer need and use them in the camp fire. Nothing burns like a dry panel with oil paint on it. An additional benefit is that burning the duds is much more liberating then just tossing the panels in the trash.