A late night conversation

 Down to the harbour

Down to the harbour

I sometimes talk about how a painting can only be ‘steered’ so far by the painter, then we have to stop, step back and ask the painting what it needs from the painter. This two way ‘conversation’ with the artwork made me scrape off a big chunk of a ‘finished’ painting this week – and I’m so glad that it did! Here’s what happened…

The idea began as a quick colour sketch in Italy last October. Combining the colour study with a photo, I developed it into an oil painting demonstration for Higham Hall in Cumbria last Sunday, with a plan to finish off in the studio.

 At the demo – with my reference pictures on the board to the right…

At the demo – with my reference pictures on the board to the right…

 Here’s how it looked after the demo…

Here’s how it looked after the demo…

And here’s what I did on Tuesday in the studio…
(I managed to video myself in the studio this week – a first for this technophobe - so here goes folks, I hope it works)

  And here’s how it looked when I thought I had ‘finished’ it on Tuesday afternoon…

And here’s how it looked when I thought I had ‘finished’ it on Tuesday afternoon…

Then, on Wednesday, I realised there was a sense that something wasn’t quite right, it felt unbalanced, the building on the right seemed to belong to a different artwork. I tried to ignore it at first, thinking “It’s fine, you’ve finished now, relax” but it didn't work. I kept popping back into the studio for another look; perhaps it might have fixed itself? Maybe it would feel better under artificial lighting? No. Still not working.

Eventually, after midnight, armed with a glass of wine, I opened a dialogue with the painting… and realised that a painting is not finished just because I say so, it’s only finished when it’s happy all over and each part is singing in harmony with the whole. And the building on the right was singing out of tune. So, with the palette knife, I carefully took off all of the paint and wiped clean back to the canvas - an instant improvement! Then I went to sleep. 

On Thursday, I came fresh to the studio, ready to listen to what the painting wanted.  I had a great time, playing with layers of thin and thick paint, warmer, more varied colours and textures helped to bring the building to the front of the image; where it belonged. And now, it feels finished.

I loved the whole process of making this painting; I really hope you enjoyed sharing it.

 

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 Down to the harbour

Down to the harbour