Change is Good (on revising oil paintings)

I’m not afraid of anything in this world
There’s nothing you can throw at me
That I haven’t already heard
I’m just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company
— Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul Hewson (U2)

I've heard it said that there's nothing new under the sun, and that's probably true when it comes to painting. Nevertheless,  I never stop striving to improve, both in terms of technique and in how best to express myself. I want to make work that speaks to me and hopefully speaks to others as well. No one painting can say everything and I don't expect it to. The best paintings say just enough, with sensitivity, but without overstating. 

And then there are the ones that need re-stating. :-/  Often with such paintings it is easier to just wipe down or tear up my first effort and see if I can try again on a fresh canvas. Sometimes though,  it seems worth the effort to attempt a revision first before scrapping the whole darn thing. If the painting is fresh and new, reworking is a fairly easy and straightforward task, as there isn't an under-layer of built up paint to compete with.

But it may not occur to me right away exactly what change is needed, and it's only after sitting with it a while that I want to go back into it again. In these cases, a little bit of elbow grease is required, both to ensure proper adhesion of the new paint layers and to knock down any unwanted texture. 

My painting, "Rugosa Coastline" is a studio piece that was based on a smaller plein air piece I did when I was up in Maine. After a few months of thinking about it I decided that it lacked something that the plein air piece captured. I felt the studio piece was labored, overall too busy, and the colors, especially in the foreground greenery,  too intense for the time of day. So I set to work to see if I could make a few changes, to maybe loosen it up, and tone down the colors to ones more faithful to the time of day I was trying to capture.

First pass of my 24x30" studio painting based on the smaller plein air piece below.

First pass of my 24x30" studio painting based on the smaller plein air piece below.

"Day's End, Lane's Island", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

"Day's End, Lane's Island", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

My first order of business was to knock back some of the texture. Not all texture in the under layer is bad, but if there is  a lot of texture that shows through as a "ghost" image I will sand it down a bit. If it's really built up I may find I need scrape it away razor blade, very carefully, (and pray I don't poke a hole in the canvas). 

Next I will "oil out" to give the new paint layer better adhesion to the partially dried layer underneath. To oil out, solvents or medium (or a combination) is brushed in a thin layer on the surface of the portion of canvas you want to rework. Most often I just use a little Gamsol for this purpose. 

"Rugosa Coastline" (SOLD) Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Rugosa Coastline" (SOLD) Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

The resulting painting was still a bit different than the little plein air piece, but it felt truer to the time and place and to the feelings that I had when creating the painting on the spot. I felt significantly happier with the revised version of this painting, and wouldn't you know, someone else did too? It sold not long after the revision. 

Tune in to part two in my next post, where I'll share another revision I undertook, which ended up with more extensive and fairly dramatic changes. 

VIDEO- Art Talk; A Maine Experience

Happy Fall everyone! I have spent so much time traveling and painting this summer that I have hardly had any time to post except on the fly on social media. So these next few posts may actually be a bit of a summer recap. First up, Maine. As you may have read here and on social media, I spent a couple of delicious weeks in June painting the Maine Coast during an artist's residency on the island of Vinalhaven. 

Gallery Flux was kind enough to have hosted a pop-up exhibit of my work for this trip, as well as an artist's talk about my experience painting there. Even though it was a nice and intimate setting, I'm not all that comfortable with public speaking, but I actually had a good time, and the attendees were all very gracious and patient. Thank you to Gallery Flux for hosting me and making this little film. 

The paintings in this exhibit represent my impressions and experiences from the island of Vinalhaven, Maine, where I was fortunate to have spent a fortnight in June as an artist-in-residence. This video, taken at Gallery Flux in Ashland, Virginia is an artist's talk I gave in conjunction with my September show featuring paintings from my residency.  

Back from Maine

A month has passed since I spent a magical two weeks in Maine doing my artist's residency. It was truly breathtaking and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity. I came home to all of the responsibilities and duties of home life, but with a renewed spirit that I think will carry me through as I continue to explore this incredible landscape in the studio. It has been a long time since I have been able to dedicate an entire two uninterrupted weeks solely to landscape painting, and it's hard to think of any more inspiring place to do it than Maine. I've put together this little slideshow of the works I came home with on my trip. If you click directly on one of the images it will take you to the Maine gallery page and you can read more about my experiences on the island and the creation of each piece. 

A Room of One's Own

Yesterday on social media I posted the video of my long-awaited studio completion. If you weren't tuned in to that, I'm including it below. Today I'm also sharing a few more photos and some details because I'm really excited to finally have a permanent home to create my work.

Yes, the garage-to-studio is complete! Hurrah! 😄 I feel as if I have been moving for nearly two years, because, well, I have. So just the very thought of not having to shuffle my supplies and equipment from one place to the other is a most delicious concept to me.

It doesn't have the cottage charm of my former studio,  but it's open and airy and has North light and storage, so I feel like I'm in luxury any way. Here are the bins we had built:

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We built them "up" to keep the work off of the floor, even making use of the space over the water heater. 

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I'm using the same hanging system for hanging art as I did in the last studio, using picture rail and a hook and rod system from Walker Display. But my favorite feature is the shelving that runs along the perimeter of the space. 

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This came about because I had a strange cinder block bump-out that ran along the walls of the garage, and the carpenter suggested capping this off with some shelving where I could perch works-in-progress, wet paintings, or other unframed art. He also ran this same shelving over the doors and windows I had framed in, in place of the the old garage doors. 

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This space is just slightly east of due north studio lighting. But as you can see, when the sun goes down I still need supplemental lighting. For that I have installed Daylight LED tube lights and tracks. At some point I may install a couple of additional short tracks over my framing and auxiliary painting area, but I have enough to get me up and running. 

In keeping with tradition, I maintain my usual impeccable timing, and have completed the studio just in time to leave for two weeks on a plein air painting trip to Maine for an artist's residency. So, as excited as I am for my new space, it will have to wait to get junked up until I return! 😉  Meanwhile, God and internet willing, I hope to blog from the road during my travels.