Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Repainting a “Finished” Piece

  I occasionally indulge in the practice, either when a new idea jumps out at me or I deicide that a piece that I had considered finished could be improved upon. Just lately, I must be in a housecleaning/recycling/problem-solving kind of mood, since I have repainted four pieces pretty much in a row. Below, the before and after versions.

I liked the delicate sunset color when I painted the bleow, and think that it could have been very successful in a more horizontal piece, but in the vertical the up and the down did not pull together quite enough. I also kept examining the reflections, feeling over time that the shapes did not fully captivate me.

Verticals are huge challenge for a landscape painter, since the sweep of the landscape is intrinsically horizontal. They have to persuade beyond doubt, presenting a visual reason for choosing that format.

Thunderstorm with Seagleams

Thunderstorm with Seagleams

In the new version, I upped the saturation of the color and changed the sweep of the reflections from narrowing as they went down to the reverse. I also decided that the large area of water needed to have more shape variation, so I added a rounder sun refection (this was not about being literal, but rather about making the area interesting). That decision also creates a strong relationship between the upper and lower portions of the painting. The area that I had really been in love with in the first place—the sky—retains everything that originally drew me to it: the right to left alteration in value; the soft salmon and peach tones; and the shimmering whites of the sun popping through.

SeagleamReflectedSeagleams Reflected, 36″x12″, final version.

I was never really sure about “Night Surf”, so even though I photographed it, it remained in my studio for months turned against the wall. I had already moved the surf around from a diagonal line to a horizontal one, but was still finding it too static. I liked the sky all along and even considered making a field or mountain beneath it.

Night Surf, 20″x20″, version #1.

Finally, I decided to do some really dynamic waves.

Night Surf, 20"x20".

Night Surf, 20″x20″, final version.

It is true in painting that when you change one thing, other areas look substantially different. So, after laying in the green and teal hues in the water, and even adding some of the warm purples found in the sky, I felt that the sky was too purple, and tweaked the color on it, as well. Now, a favorite part of the painting is how the soft moonlight comes in from the upper left in a white/green color.

Winter Field, 10"X30", version #1.

Winter Field, 10″X30″, version #1.

With this pair I really did like the first version. But I had been admiring trees emerging from foggy fields in my travels, and decided to add that element to the piece. I also added a bit more vibration to the sky by scumbling in a soft white layer with a hint of mauve toward the horizon, so that the whites of the sky include both warm greens and cool reds.

Winter Field, 10"x30".

Winter Field, 10″x30″.

Prepping for one of my Affinity Series pieces is a huge amount of work,  involving many steps of cutting, fraying the linen, gluing, gessoing, gridding, painting, and re-gridding. The larger the piece the more time-consuming the prep, especially since some aspects of the job are just way more difficult in the larger sizes.

So, about ten days ago, as I was ordering supplies for two new 36″x48″ Affinities (stay tuned!), my eye fell on the Waterspout piece, still in my studio after many months.

Affinity/Waterspout, 48"x12".

Affinity/Waterspout, 48″x12″.

Why not turn it into a whole new piece, using not only my prepped board but some parts of the existing imagery?

And so I did.

Affinity/In Motion, 48"x12".

Affinity/In Motion, 48″x12″.

I feel that the composition in the second piece is most unusual, the long diagonals intersecting with the short  line of the horizon, and that pleases me a great deal. Not completely visible in the photo is how much more color I added to the sky, both soft cool greenish and warm tones.

Last, this piece I repainted last summer.  I think I just craved something different. I do like the first version, but prefer the second.

Areas of Light, 36"X36", $5,500.

Areas of Light, 36″X36″.

A substantial re-paint. I particularly love a piece that has mood shifts within, and feel that in the below—thunderstorm coming across the mountains, but with the lift of the blue sky and white cloudbank behind.

Walking Rain, 36"x36".

Walking Rain, 36″x36″.

It’s just one of those things, I guess…artists following the prompts of our obsessively examining eye.

Let me know your thoughts.

Do you rework “finished” art?

Do you agree/disagree with my choices?

8 responses

  1. Linda

    I love to rework “finished” pieces, it’s so comfortable and it’s a bit easier for me to know what it is I need to do, having looked at and mentally criticized them for so long. These are fantastic and definitely richer for the revisit!

    November 16, 2013 at 4:05 am

  2. Interesting post, I agree with your choices, especially the green field at the end. As a relative beginner, I find that after I return to an abandoned half done painting a year later, I can bring greater sensitivity and a whole new skill set to the process. The very thin layers of paint in your way of painting allow a fair amount of revisiting.

    November 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm

  3. You are fabulous (both as a painter and as a person). I love how your mind and your eye work. Your understanding of the needs of both say a great deal about why you are where you are today (in the pantheon of my favorite artists). My approval of your choices is very strong. While I realize that our genres and mediums are totally different, I too (although less frequently) choose to change a piece (for any number of reasons). In my case, it usually involves drastic measures (like taking the whole piece apart). Keep being as wonderful as you are in so many ways. Lenny

    November 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm

  4. Mary Wilshire Magnusson

    Christie thank you so much for sharing you process with these pieces, I found it extremely interesting and valuable. I love them all, but it is fascinating to see how another artist deals with the different choices. It takes guts to mess with a finish but your exercise really helped to remind me that it can produce all kinds of insight and even better work.

    November 17, 2013 at 11:15 am

  5. I am moved at how much this discussion is striking a deep chord with artists—I think partly because we are hard at work facing all of these decisions while in isolation in our studios. It feels revelatory to discover (even over and over again) how much we have in common. And I feel lucky both to have so many thoughtful artists in my life and to be able to communicate in this way, reaching you all and then hearing back from you. It’s pretty amazing.

    November 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

  6. Very nice! I like your minimalist approach and weather related themes!

    December 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm

  7. Pingback: Looking Forward, a Little Back |

  8. This is such a great post … Appreciate the information and find it to be very helpful in evaluating some of my older pieces … Had toyed with the idea of doing some ‘tweaking’ and now feel more confident about going back into a piece to do more work … Thanks, Christie …

    August 31, 2017 at 12:47 pm

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