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Thursday, June 02, 2016

Advice for Rescuing a Failed Painting

'Music of the Marsh'           8x10       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $165

It was a pearl of wisdom. Just a sentence but it was just the bit of advice I needed to hear. How many times do we have a painting that has good bones but just doesn't sing? I have piles of paintings that sit waiting for resuscitation. But it is sometimes hard to know just what they need.

I came across this pearl last week in a Facebook post. It was advice from Frank W. Benson  (1852-1951) an impressionist plein air painter who focused on capturing the light. Here is his simple but profound bit of advice:

"If you find a thing is going badly, go back and make more strongly the effects of light and shadow."  Frank W. Benson

The 'before' painting

I searched through my pile looking for a painting that could benefit from this advice. I found an old one done several years ago. It was painted on Pastelbord which is why I had not thrown it away. It needed help!

  • It was too busy...there were too many blades of grass and leaves on the bushes.
  • The pathway didn't sit right and came up from the corner leading nowhere.
  • The aerial perspective or sense of depth was not there.
  • There was no strong sense of light and shadow...where was the light coming from?

I brushed off most of the fussy marks to simplify 

I began the rescue by brushing off most of the top layer of pastel. This simplified the scene allowing me to see the bones better. I then sprayed some workable fixative to darken and give me more tooth.

To emphasize the light on the marsh I expanded the shadowed area in the foreground. By darkening and expanding the shadows I was able to emphasize the light on the grass.  I used a heavier hand when painting the light on the grass so that it contrasted with the darker shadows.  I also changed the size and direction of the path adding light to the sunlit portions of the path.

It was the perfect bit of advice.  I know it will come in handy!

"If you find a thing is going badly, go back and make more strongly the effects of light and shadow."  Frank W. Benson


Kathy Johnson said...

What a great post! The painting was greatly improved by your new "fix." Thank you for sharing

RoK said...

What a difference that made! Beautiful fix. Very helpful, too.

robertsloan2art said...

Wow! The finish is so atmospheric. It was the perfect example of reworking because the first version was pretty but "meh" not that intense. The shadowed, magical finish is glorious. I fell in love with all the blues you used in the shadows and those rich blue-greens. Gorgeous painting.