This Painting or That One?

‘Blossom Mandala’ (under-painting) by Elma Schumacher
‘Blossom Mandala’ (final version) by Elma Schumacher

I think all artists need a mean streak. When we produce a body of work we need to be able to take something that has been worked on, long and hard, and turn around and end it. Maybe even destroy all evidence of it’s existence.

This may sound harsh. Anyone watching will find it hard to understand why one would take a painting, or any other piece of art that took hours to create and smash it to bits, tear it up or just paint over it. But some things must come to pass.

Any artist serious about creating a body of work has to be prepared to throw out false starts, imperfect pieces and outright failures or at the very least stow them somewhere where they will never again see the light of day.

Why? Well anyone who is seriously trying to make a living from their art, should understand that the majority of people who purchase art work want to see that they are making an investment in an artist who can produce a consistent body of work. ‘One ofs’ are often a hard sell.

It doesn’t mean that experimenting and trying new things is wrong. It is a necessary part of growing as an artist. But once art work goes to market its style should feel like it came from a singular creator, an individual.

This is clearly ‘do as I say’, not ‘do as I do’ advice. I have switched styles and mediums and experimented endlessly.

Still, there are paintings of mine that just don’t seem to fit. I can’t like them, even after years of standing back and thinking it over. The artist in me wants to be free and expressive and when the work becomes too tight and detailed it sometimes feels frozen in place. A few paintings I have done will either have the canvas destroyed and replaced and others will have an existing image reworked.

Nothing new here. The practice of painting over a previous image is one that has existed for centuries. Museum conservators keep finding new ways to see through layers of paint. Sometimes under-paintings are found, they are used to build up the image seen on the canvas, sometimes a completely different image is found underneath.

So above there are two images of my ‘Blossom Mandala’, an acrylic painting on canvas. The first existed for a few years, but it is now the under painting of the second. So which one do you like best, this one or that one?





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