It ain't over till it's over
|Purple Life Vest|
30 x 30 Revised
Purple Life Vest was the gleeful product of a fascination with pink. I painted it swiftly, intuitively and without censoring myself a few months ago, and I liked it. But it wasn't ready to go out into the world; the thought of sending it to a gallery didn't cross my mind as it was so different from my usual palette. Still, there was something there that I liked, so it hung in the studio as a joyful recollection of summer.
Then I did the big painting purge of 2015, and it was one of few paintings to survive the overhaul and avoid landfill. In my newly orderly, newly painted studio, it also became fair game for more paint.
The first thing to change was all that pink. When I'd painted it, I thought it might be the first of a series of pink-infused images, but it didn't come to pass. I just needed to get that one out of my system, and then I moved on. And now it was time to sober this piece up and see if it could say anything new to me. As well, I thought the image lacked space, and the figures were too defined.
When I make changes, I try to confine myself to doing one thing and stopping to evaluate its effect, before making a second change. That way I don't go past a good stopping point inadvertently and create a whole new set of issues to overcome. So the first change was to cover most of the pink with a greyed warm and to extend the blue water into a simpler, larger shape. Instantly, the flow of the painting improved and I found I had also figured out how to create space. The blue, heading up to, and partially obscuring, the horizon did the trick.
As to the figures: they suddenly felt less firm in this new and improved background, so I mainly worked along their edges, breaking into them with background colour to reduce crispness and contrast. Most needed little work - it turns out they weren't as bad as I thought (proof that tackling only one thing is sensible) - but I repainted a great deal of the hat-wearing lady and lowered the contrast of the child in the life vest.
Then it was time to hang the painting for a rest and some thinking. Luckily, during its rest, a friend who is both an artist and a collector, came to my studio and fell in love with it. She'd seen it before the changes and hadn't felt a pull, but its new incarnation touched her. So it will have a new home, and that means that I won't be making any further changes. That's a good way to discover that a painting is really done!