Monday, September 28, 2009

Reformatting your failures

Here's a painting I did several years ago on Vinalhaven. I had it out in a gallery and I got it back unsold. I "reformatted" it. Here's how I do that.

Periodically I clean out my studio and I always have a big pile of paintings that I started and didn't quite work, or I showed and they came back unsold. I throw them on the floor, and I slide an empty frame around on them and I see if there is a smaller, better picture concealed on the larger canvas. I have a couple of sizes of small frames with which to do this. Most of the time I don't find anything, but often enough tho make it worthwhile I do. Radically cropping a picture often tightens it down to just the most important part of the painting.

The painting of the lobster shack above didn't seem to have an area that was the most important. There were areas all over the canvas that vied for the viewers attention. I cropped it down to an 11 by 14 and I came out with this.

I think it is much improved, it focuses better and I threw away a lot of distracting stuff. The painting will now cost a lot less and that might be good too. I don't paint many small pictures, so I can use them in the inventory.

So there's the little trick. Lay your failure pictures out on the floor and with an empty frame, hunt for smaller pictures within them. When I find one, I run a pencil around the inside of the rabbet of the frame marking off the boundary's of the new painting. Then if it is on a panell I cut it down on my table saw, or if it is on a canvas I cut it down with a scissors leaving two inches extra all the way around my line, then I restretch that. I have ended up with some real nice little paintings this way and I have sold many of them.


Gregory Becker said...

That is excellent. Good problem solving.

James F. Smith said...

Thanks for sharing. I used to do that a lot it seems!! Sometimes I could make several painting with one bad painting. Will have to check out some of my older ones!!

tom martino said...

Great idea,especially for the "small picture shows" that will crowd the upcoming holidays! said...

Hi Stapleton,
I think there are really important lessons here over the last two days; one about culling paintings and the other about reworking, cropping and revisiting older works that have some merit. I am fearless when it comes to throwing out paintings. The world is full of mediocre work and I don't want to contribute to that. Got to go throw out a painting now, it bothers me to have it around.

willek said...

That was a very interesting crop. You completely eliminated the sky. Courageous. I hope you saved that sky and plugged in some soaring red tails or passing ducks.

Catherine Raynes said...

Thanks Stape. I have several paintings in my studio I've been toying with doing the exact same thing.. the frame idea around it as a way to crop is an excellent idea!

alotter said...

I agree that the original has too much going on, and I would crop it even more ruthlessly than you have done. Left vertical edge would cut through the left end of the boat that is hauled ashore, bottom edge cuts off the reflection of the boat in the water, right edge is the original right edge, top edge is just below the line where the path disappears over the hill. I find this arrangement of pier and boats really interesting. The red lobster shack and bridge fragment that you left in I found still too distracting.

My watercolor paintings are uniformly so awful that I have to cut all of them up into acceptable fragments. It's very entertaining.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope you are able to find hundreds of good ones in a bad one. All real small!

Stapleton Kearns said...

That is exactly the idea. Small picture shows, auctions (shudder) and wedding gifts may all be obtained in this manner.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Every time you throw a bad one away you raise your average quality.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. Those damn ducks were at my site today. I wish i was a duck fancier like you. I would have shot them.BANG BANG!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Nice to see you on my blog. Bet you can't outrun Deb!I get a lot of fast women on my blog.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Perhaps, but the next stock size down is an 8 by 10 and I thought that cropped it too far. I can't have a custom closed corner frame made for an amputee,

Catherine Raynes said...

Stape, great to be a part of the discussion!