If you're like me, and like most other painters I know, somewhere in your studio, or the spare bedroom, or the garage, there's a group of dead paintings, huddled together, existing in precarious limbo before the final trip to the dump.
Do you remember the one from years ago---that gray, twilight painting? Can you still recall the heady feeling when you really felt you'd finally come to grips with the essential act of painting?
You came to grips, of course, for what now seems to have been just an instant--- the instant before that horrifying, hurtling descent as it became the worst painting you'd ever painted.
I certainly remember all of mine.
In every artist's studio is a corner stuffed with dead paintings. They represent too much work, and too much heartache, to be summarily dismissed to the dustbin. So they linger on. Perhaps, one day, they may be harvested for their stretcher bars. In the meantime they silently reproach us with our failure.
It doesn't have to be this way. In fact, this coming Thursday some students will bring the halt and the lame to my studio, and we'll inaugurate The Dead Paintings Society.
I happen to believe that there's almost always a painting lurking within, one waiting to be set free. We'll choose a canvas, and I'll spend the next three hours seeing if I can find the answer.
Of course I have a big advantage over the original artist. First, I have nothing invested---neither hours nor tears. Second, I'm not constrained at all by the original idea. I have only what's before me. Thus I am free to play, to change this, to keep that.
One hopes, in the end, that the artist sees gold where there seemed to be only straw.
It is a learn-able skill to be able to re-invent one's painting when it appears to have gone astray, to set aside preconceptions of what the painting was meant to be, and to find the real painting that may be deep inside.
Along the way, there are technical skills learned, too, and perhaps a bolstered confidence.