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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fall Fell Hard

Dissolving a painting is an interesting exercise and a physical challenge involving lots of alcohol applications, lots of scrubbing with an abrasive brush or steel mesh pad, lot's of scraping with a palette knife, lots of trips outside to power wash off the debris, then drying it off and starting all over again. The blue colors lift easily. The red colors do not. The thicker the paint, the harder it is to lift. The longer the paint has been on the surface the harder it is to lift. The more water in the paint the easier it is to lift. All colors leave a slight stain. Brush strokes do come off as brush strokes. Fascinating. As I labored, I wondered what process conservators used to lift junk off of jewels? However, there was no priceless artwork beneath this amateur's work.

At lunch I told Honey what I had been doing all morning. Of course, he wanted to know why I went through all this trouble and didn't just buy a new canvas for twenty bucks? He also said I should have kept the painting and sold it for the price of the new canvas. He can be such a smartass. I hated that painting. The exercise exorcised my dislike and my disappointment and my annoyance for having stayed with it for so long. The cleaner the canvas got, the better I felt. Beside, who would want a bad piece of work with their signature on it leaving the studio under some lady's arm that you didn't want to sign and didn't want anyone to see?

I still have some stubborn paint spots to work on this morning, but the grain of the fabric is free and intact though stained. If I want to get closer to a more pristine condition, I might treat those stains as I would stains on my clothes before thoroughly washing the fabric with laundry detergent with bleach. What the hell? I've always enjoyed experimenting with how far you can and cannot go with materials. The failures and successes illuminate the possibilities.

Should I have kept the painting and just made another Fall? Was Fall a total loss of time, effort and paint? No. Making the transition from sculptor/builder to painter, I had to figure a lot of paint would be lost down the drain. I learned what I was wrong about the painting for the quadtyck I have in mind. I learned about making corrections in acrylics. I learned that I really should get an SAD light come fall, because I really do not like the season that precedes winter's darkness. And besides, it wasn't a total loss: I still do have the painting in my portfolio minus the lousy brushwork. I've photographed it in process so many times, I'm sure I could publish a number of prints if so moved. One of them would probably be at the point I should have stopped and declared the thing done. And so it goes...


  1. :) Wow, I've never done this... I guess you would have to remove the canvas from the frame and then stretch it back on when you are ready to paint?

  2. I didn't remove anything from anything. I clamped the stretched canvas on my watercolor easel that was positioned parallel to the floor. Then I just flooded it with denatured alcohol, spread it evening, let it sit for ten minutes or so and took a scrub brush to it. The paint loosened and got real muddy and somewhat gooey. I took a damp sponge and wiped it off then used a scrapper--actually a palette knife--and more layers came up.(I was very careful with how much pressure I applied. I didn't want to damage the surface). I wiped it with the sponge again and took it out to the hose and power washed it. Dried it as thoroughly as possible and then let it dry complete on its own. I then repeated the whole process a couple more times till I got to what you see here, a ghost of a painting that has its own charm in a way.

    I think the trick I would like to learn from this removal process is how to control the removal. That could be very handy information for handling mistakes in other paintings--like those globs you don't catch till they've adhered to the layer below and thoroughly dried.

  3. You may want to throw a brick at me, but that is actually a very beautiful and interesting painting now.


    OK I'm shuttin up.

  4. I knew you'd like it. The elusiveness of it is right up your alley. I like it too, but I doubt I could get away with just varnishing it and calling it done. Don't you think some folks might want some actual paint on the canvas instead of laundry stains?

  5. Laundry stains? Thanks for the visual. OK perhaps, but duly deliberated [and possibly premeditated] laundry stains. Why am I thinking of Anthony Perkins?

    I know. It's tough going through all that angst over a piece, deciding to teach it a lesson and reclaiming the canvas with your heart set on whitening it out. And then just when you think your done it draws you back in.

    Seriously, I know your going through a lot more than just reclaiming a canvas. I've been there. If it's messing with your head break out the Gesso. Life is too short to get all clogged up with this stuff.

    On the other hand the three art men from NYC could be coming up the driveway right now saying where's this canvas we saw in the east, and you standing there all Anthony Perkins with the [pallet] knife in one hand and a Gesso bucket in the other.

    What a dilemma.

  6. I'm going to let it "rest in peace" for now. Clear my head. Rethink the project come fall. Started the second painting of pastry today. The subject, strawberry tarts, makes me happy. Fall did not. Turned me off. Cleaning the canvas was a lot like, "Out, out, damn spot. Out I say..."

  7. Wow, quite a messy task I am imagining. BTW, I saw a "food" painting today - I thought of you :). Not just any food but tarts and cakes displayed in rows...

  8. There's something fascinating about display cases full of beautiful goodies I wouldn't think of eating. Oddly enough, I don't have a sweet tooth.