Sometimes you finish a painting and you are "okay" with it, but something just isn't...quite...right, but you can't figure out what it is that's bothering you. Around the Bend (below) was one of those paintings. I did it just before last year's Art Crawl, framed it, and hung it on the gallery wall in the studio. There it sat, garnering no attention, and as the months went by it irritated me more and more. What the heck was wrong with it?
Then, last week I visited an exhibition by west coast artist Renato Muccillo at the White Rock Art Gallery (http://renatomuccillo.com/home.html) . I was extremely impressed with the works, noting that the subject matter and compositions were similar to my own. Although I don't aspire to the technical polish evident in Muccillo's pieces, I do think I can learn a lot from his approach. One of the differences I noted was Muccillo's level of foreground detail, and I came home determined to take another look at my own paintings with this in mind. As a result, I completed The Green Fuse, which includes much more fine detail up front than my usual work.
As I was standing back and contemplating this piece as it neared completion, I happened to glimpse Around the Bend out of the corner of my eye and had a flash of insight...its foreground needed work! Off the wall and onto the easel it came, and I started in on the foreground details.
And then my husband came in and commented that the perspective on the grass heights was off, so I fixed that. And then I realized that the focal point was being divided by the presence of the TWO trees (even though the original scene had both trees, it just wasn't working), so down came the evergreen...which then allowed me to notice that the remaining tree needed re-shaping and adjustment of the values to make it more visible against the sky and background trees, using counterchange. (dark against the light sky/lighter against the dark trees behind it).
Ok, it was improving. Then I sat down with a cup of tea to judge my changes, and had the BIG realization. At some point in the painting's evolution, I had changed the sky from a pale blue to a pale pink--and I had forgotten to change the water surface (reflecting the sky) to match! Duh!! Yup, THAT is what had been irritating me all along. Can't believe I didn't catch the error in my usual final "logic check" (where I check things like angles of reflections, cast shadows etc.)!
So, I abandoned the tea and immediately repainted the water surface. More noodling with the detail, more fixing of the grass levels. Final check revealed my usual crooked horizon (I often drop slightly as I go from left to right, and have learned to use a T-square to check, as I don't trust my eye). Ok, fixed that..and I think I am finally satisfied! But the painting has changed so much that it needs a new name: presenting Rosy Dawn. I won't be grieving the loss of Around the Bend, as that painting nearly drove me there! In the end, however, it was a good lesson. Given enough time, I eventually figure out what the problems are--good idea to give "near-misses" an aging period!