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Getting Reacquainted with Your Art

February 18, 2010

Here are two paintings that surprised me upon seeing them again after having them packed away for a long time. The first one had been in a box for more than three years. It simply came with us on our move, still in its box, sight unseen. Over time I had decided that it wasn’t one of my most successful paintings, due to the fact that I had painted it for a gallery show out of state, and the picture I took before sending it off was not the best quality.

The gallery had asked me for some paintings with muted colors in addition to the more saturated ones I was doing at the time. So looking at what has proven to be a shockingly underexposed photograph over the past couple of years, I had developed an indifference to the painting, thinking it was just one of those I had done in more subtle colors.

Here is the original photograph of this painting. When the gallery closed and shipped it back, I just kept it in the box. After all, I reasoned, if it looked this understated and muted, I would eventually have to consider giving it a color lift with paint. And then I kind of just forgot about it. This is the image I saw on screen for all that time:

abstract painting

But on a bright day out in the carport yesterday it looked like a completely different painting. At first I didn’t recognize it at all, and had to read the title on the back to convince myself which one it was. Here is a color corrected version of the same photograph, which more closely matches the painting’s real colors:

abstract painting“Resonance” – Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 48″

I’m shocked — shocked!

And here is another perfect example of this same phenomenon. Another one (the painting that I showed last year as it was being created) had seemed to be less than the sum of its parts. I hadn’t gone to a lot of effort to create the original progress shots, and then I had put it away in the studio, only to pack it for our move.

But opening the painting yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I actually like it.

“Looking Beyond Blue” – Acrylic on Canvas
36 x 60″

It’s very good to spend some time away from your work and come back to it with a fresh perspective. Do you have similar stories about being surprised by a new encounter with one of your works of art?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 7:03 am

    As a photographer, not a painter, I find something similar happens. When I revisit slides that I took 20 years ago, let’s say, my skills and techniques have changed so radically since then that I can process that image differently now, or incorporate it into another photograph, or change it altogether. It’s a combination (in photography) of changing technology, ever-improving skills, and my current way of seeing things. It’s an old photograph, but it has enough substance to it that I can run with it again. I am seeing it with new eyes.

    In your case, a photograph did you in! Your photograph depicted a murky painting and that’s what kept popping up in your head. How delightful for you to discover your painting was incredibly vibrant after all. What a gift.

    The beauty for us as artists is that we are in a state of constant flux, changing, becoming, learning, discarding, exploring, and reinventing. There’s never a destination, only a journey. And daily we are seeing with new eyes. — Carol (hoping this makes sense) Leigh

    • February 19, 2010 9:43 am

      Carol, that makes perfect sense, and is so well articulated! I appreciate your comment so much. New eyes daily. Yes!

  2. February 19, 2010 10:42 am

    Very often if you put a painting away and get back to you see it in a different light the same as when a painting is in a different room it seems to change its chemistry somehow!

    • February 22, 2010 4:35 pm

      Chris I so agree that the environment influences the chemistry. I love seeing everything in a new light.

  3. February 22, 2010 2:06 pm

    Martha — So happy you “re-discovered” your artwork! I’ve read that the best light to photograph one’s artwork is on a cloudy but bright day where there are no shadows and glare. I’ve done it and it truly works! Love “Looking beyond Blue!!!”

  4. February 22, 2010 4:40 pm

    Kelly, you’re right that outdoors on a cloudy but bright day is the best light for photographing art. Unfortunately for that one, I was working on a deadline to get the paintings shipped. Consequently, it was just a “record” of the painting, and an awful one.

    Glad you like the blue one. I’ve definitely rediscovered it!

  5. February 22, 2010 6:45 pm

    Yes, I’m looking at an old painting that has been “bothering” me ever since I did it. Some compositional glitch.
    I’m determined to fix it … and I want to fix it this year.
    Thanks for the reminder… 🙂

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