I have a collection of disappointing paintings. These are paintings that I've created and which, for various reasons, didn't work out to my satisfaction. So they're in a stack on the floor of my studio, leaning against the wall, awaiting a new life.
Last week I was finishing up a couple of days of oil painting. The next day I would be leaving on a week-long trip, and I knew that the left-over colors I had mixed on my glass palette probably wouldn't last til my return (paint dries notoriously quickly in my sun-heated studio). So with the extra paint I decided to attack one of the reject paintings and see what would happen. I had no image in mind, let alone an end result — no intention of creating a landscape nor an abstraction. Rather, I just dove in with my paint-loaded palette knife and waited to see what emerged.
And then — in a matter of moments, really — the paint worked itself into a very satisfying scene!
Here's the before:
|stowe vermont winter, v
— 6 x 6 inches — oil on panel — from the daily painting series— copyright Dawn Chandler 2010 – 2012
And here's the after:
— 6 x 6 inches — oil on panel — from the daily painting series— copyright Dawn Chandler 2012
It's funny, the first version is a much more dynamic composition, with the zigzagging of the brush and fence-line and shadows of the hills. But the second version is more satisfying to me. Though the composition is hardly dynamic, the paint handling is. The first feels like a landscape observed from a distance, with somewhat studied brushstrokes; it feels cold and distant. The second feels like a place that has been experienced on a gut level; there's a feeling of immediacy in the all-over handling of the paint, and a real grounding of place. I especially love how we can see through the trees to flecks of snow further back in the woods.
If I were to change this new version, I might make the four dominant trees a little less symmetrical: right now there's two brown trees on the left and two white (birch?) trees on the right, all spaced evenly across the mid-ground and all more or less the same size. Boring? Yeah, kinda.... On the other hand, they sort of beg a narrative: Who are these two "couples" and what are they talking about?
Just the thought of that makes me chuckle.
A couple of details: