Wednesday, August 17, 2016

More about old canvases and landfills

In my January 27th post I talked about culling through my old paintings and discarding them on a regular basis,  saving digital images for my records instead.  In my last post, August 3rd, I suggested a way to salvage older paintings- make them better based on your current level of expertise.  But there will always be failed paintings no matter how accomplished an artist may be.  It is part of the creative process.  In one of my earliest workshops the instructor, quoting someone I can't recall, said "we all have bad paintings in us- we just have to paint them and get them out".

In the spirit of recycling I try to reduce landfill trash as much as possible because I believe it is important. However I do pitch unsuccessful paintings if I do not wipe them out on the spot. When I was just starting to paint, several instructors suggested painting over old paintings to salvage canvases.  I paint in oil so I cannot cover an old canvas with acrylic gesso.  I would have to use oil based gesso or a similar product.  Windsor Newton makes an oil paint called "Underpainting White" that can be used this way and is fast drying.  One instructor suggested painting directly over old paintings- turn the canvas upside down so one won't be distracted by what is already there.

I tried this for several years and I learned something about myself.  I hate painting on used canvases.  When I paint directly over old paintings I am very disoriented and it takes my focus away from what I am trying to paint.  When I tried using Underpainting White the texture was rough and kept my brush from moving freely.  One time I painted a successful painting over an older bad one only to realize that I could see the ghost of the previous painting through the new one.  Had I sanded the canvas this probably wouldn't have happened, but  I don't want to sand canvases.

I spend a lot of money on good quality paint and brushes.  I feel the same way about a fresh new canvas that has the feel that I enjoy and allows me to start out with transparent darks and to let my toned canvas show in areas of the final painting if I choose.  I make a lot of my panels now (future blog) which saves on the cost.  I have started painting on unmounted canvas taped to a support so I only have to pitch the canvas itself if the painting isn't successful.   I just mount the "keepers".

But that is just me.  Everyone has their own painting style.  If I used a lot of thick paint throughout my paintings or painted with a palette knife I don't think a used canvas would bother me at all. Occasionally I paint on an old canvas for exercises which is a cost saver.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts recently posted a thorough discussion about old paintings that was very entertaining and helpful to me.  Check it out- the link is to the right under "favorite blog posts".

This is a painting I did on location, a very good oil primed linen canvas taped to a support.  I haven't mounted it yet, but I could.  This is a good way to reduce cost.

Thanks for looking and happy painting!

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