Remaking an oil painting

11 09 2011

As an oil painter I’m often asked, “How long does it take to finish a painting?” In the same vein artists will remind each other, “You have to know when to stop.” We like to avoid overworking a piece.

My “Clouds Lifting Over Lanihuli” demonstrates these points. First is a photo of the painting mid-way, in the field. On a clear day, there are no waterfalls in the scene, but just after a big rain when the clouds lift, there they are! To paint en plein air I headed to this place to study the scene when it was raining, time after time. I took this snapshot from the trunk of my hatchback where I’d taken shelter.

In the field, in the rain

I wanted so much to finish the painting. Below is what I published, i.e., what I thought was ready for market, a few weeks ago. Oils take a long time to dry—up to six months before they can be varnished. In the meantime I can look at a painting every day. As I kept staring at this piece (it’s staged above the TV cabinet) something bothered me. It wasn’t finished.

Not quite finished

I decided to correct the areas of the painting that were “wrong.” In a representative piece, although it is impressionistic (I label my style as “impressionistic representationalism”) I want to paint a scene so that it looks logical.

To really finish and complete this painting, I did three things:

1) I added pigment to the center clouds area to hide the waterfall behind it.

2) I widened the same center waterfall at the bottom because it is closer to the viewer (and so should appear larger).

3) In addition, by very very carefully scraping with the long edge of a palette knife, I knocked down some objectionable relief areas I originally painted of the mountain ridges at the top and touched up the clouds to make them softer and smoother looking.

“Clouds Lifting Over Lanihuli” looks better now. I hope you agree!

Finished: "Clouds Lifting Over Lanihuli," 16" x 20" oil on canvas

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke
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