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A change for the better

'Heavy weather, October, Beinn Inverveigh'

'Heavy weather, October, Beinn Inverveigh'

Ever since I first picked up a paint brush I’ve been told time and time again …‘don’t go back to a painting once it is finished’.   Everyone, it seems, knows this, but I’m not sure quite how many people who paint actually adhere to this….come on,….it’s just too tempting isn’t it!

There really can’t be that much worse than seeing one of your finished paintings …and then realising that you’d conned yourself when you put it into a frame…….you’d got caught up in the moment and simply allowed your ego to take over.  You know what its like …you’re painting away late into the evening and its all going well.  You’re happy, you’ve got your music blasting out and before you know it, you’re thinking the painting on the easel in front of you is the best thing you’ve ever done, in fact, it’s possibly a mini masterpiece!  You wash your brushes and waltz about the studio on a real high ..and leave for home planning your acceptance speech for the Turner Prize!!  Of course, when you return in the morning eager to reacquaint yourself with the previous evenings work …all is not so good.  In fact, all is far from good.  All is really dreadful.  The colours are insane, the composition simply appalling and quite just how you failed to notice the piece of kitchen towel stuck to the paint in the top left corner …well, it just beggars belief!  Where had the masterpiece that was surely to lead to fame and fortune, gone?  Had someone entered the studio and painted over the top of it while you were sleeping, or simply repaced it with this ill considered daub?

Over the years, I’ve had far too many disappointments like this. I’ve become rather wary of any initial excitement on my part over a new piece of work.  Now when I return in the morning I kind of sidle up to the studio door, let myself in and avoid eye contact with the previous evenings work.  By concentrating on everything but the work, I can usually put my sign out, turn on all the lights, fill the kettle and open the shutters …and sometimes even manage half a mug of coffee before taking a peek.  Then of course, if it’s ***** …I can be very casual and grown up about it.  It’s just a point on the way to a painting …not the finished item.  In this way, I’ve learnt to avoid much of the gloom that comes with realising that you’re not quite the painter you imagined you were the evening before!

This said, somehow, pieces still occasionally get under the radar and it is at this point that I have to go against that old advice …and take the painting back out of the frame and try and put things right.  The whole reason for this weeks ramble is that I’ve just completed a re-working of a painting I did about a year ago.  The painting I guess, was ok …but the problem was that I’d done the piece specifically for a show and as things sometimes happen, completed it rather too close to the exhibition deadline.  The painting came back from the framer and the work went up to the gallery straight after.  When I saw the piece at the preview I had a little bit of a panic …it looked fine  …just not finished!  If I’d allowed more time between finishing it and having it framed I’d probably have spotted it quite quickly …but I didn’t and there it was looking rather weak and letting down my other pieces.   The painting didn’t sell and so that may well tell a story in itself, but of course once back in the studio there was no way that I could simply leave the piece as it was. I was quite happy with the general composition …it just lacked any atmosphere.  The painting is based on a day in October the other year when a friend and I took a walk up the wee Beinn Inverveigh.  It was a foul day, with heavy driving rain and low clouds being blasted along by a gale force wind.  Despite the conditions we had a great little day and as we were descending the rain became more patchy and odd patches of brightness brought out the vivid autumn colours of the various grasses.

'Heavy weather, October, Beinn Inverveigh,


 'Heavy weather, October, Beinn Inverveigh'


After having the painting back in the studio for a couple of months I eventually decided to tackle the problem.  I spent perhaps the best part of two days painting into the original piece, using colours in thin glazes to try and bring out the misty atmosphere of that wet autumn afternoon.  I’m far happier with the piece now. It is almost the same composition but has for me, much more of the feel of that wild and wet October afternoon.  Of course, I’m wondering now whether I have the nerve to put up a ‘before’ and ‘after’ image of this work.  I think I will …comments please on my Face book page …I’ve found the delete button now, so if anyone thinks that the original version was better than the new one ….. need I say more?!