I used to visit this park as a child and so both paintings have some significance to me .... The old painting has gone.... I know it used to be there and if you look very closely tell tale signs of the impression remain. I may have put a lot of work into the original painting ...but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's worth hanging on to.
This June it will be almost a year since I moved back home and time to knuckle down to more painting. Sometimes it feels like I've wasted a lot of time.... but with painting, the thinking time in between productive times can be just as important. In rethinking my approach to work it's apparent that I've barely scratched the surface in learning about light, colour, form and composition etc. I feel at times that my work has become driven at by the desire to participate in certain exhibitions, joining societies and striving for awards and the 'approval' that seems to accompany botanical art. Not that these things aren't important but of late I find I'm painting things for the sake of meeting some criteria or brief, rather than the things I set out to do when I first started painting plants. So it's time to remind myself that the work comes first, then if it's good enough it can be entered for an
exhibition, rather than painting for these shows. Sounds obvious and a bit silly but it's easy to get caught up in this system and for the balance to shift, so it's time to pull things back to the start! For me I can only progress by regular painting and self -exploration of techniques with no particular goal in mind. For others it may be a different story.
With all of this in mind I've been having a look through some of my older paintings and looking at what I feel is right and wrong with them. With a few of the vellum works I decided to reclaim the vellum and give it a new lease of life. These paintings, some of which are unfinished or gathering dust....have been banished to the work cupboard for a reason....I simply don't like them!
The fact that paintings on vellum can be removed, altered or corrected is one of the things I love about vellum. The reason for this is that unlike paper vellum is non-absorbent and the paint sits on the surface, although this property makes it more difficult to paint on in the first instance it also makes it easier to remove or correct.
Some might think it's a shame to remove a painting because it's part of your history as an painter but if it's something that I'm not happy with - it's better to make good use of the vellum by hopefully creating a better painting.
I always enjoy a painting more if it has a bit of a story or personal association with place or person, rather than painting a plant for the sake of a likeness. I've always been intrigued by corrections and hidden paintings, makes it so much more interesting because it demonstrates the thinking process! I recall reading about a visible correction to the stem position on one of Rory McEwen's tulips in Shirley Sherwood' s book Contemporary Botanical Artists, until I read that I didn't know it was so easy to erase from vellum.
The work that I'm removing is a relatively small study of Aquilegia with a nectar robbing bee biting into one of the spurs. It's an interesting enough 'story' for a painting, in which the bee effectively 'cheats' the plant out of the nectar reward without offering any service as a pollinator.
But I was never happy with this piece, also it has a mark bottom left over the painting that needed to be cleaned up. The dissection etc. on the left hand side is satisfactory but the right hand side painting of the plant could have been much better, particularly in composition, it looks too stiff and lacks depth....and it's just a bit lifeless and naive. The decision I had to make was whether to remove the right side and repaint it or to start again with something completely different. Given that there were a few issues, I chose the latter option.
A word of caution: Some colours are easier to lift than others be careful with paints that have staining pigments always check your paints to for staining properties. Cadmium red, cadmium yellow and Winsor violet dioxide are a few of those that stain. Doesn't mean they can't be lifted but they can be difficult.
Also removing large areas of work from larger paintings can be difficult because of warping of the vellum from the original painting.
I use a fine grade pumice powder 240mesh, the type used by jewellers is fairly easy to find online.
A little goes a long way! I start by sprinkling some on the area I want to erase. I also create a small bag of pumice using an old stocking filled with about a teaspoon of pumice and use circular movements to erase the paint.
|Rub gently in circular movements to remove the image.|
Once the image is removed, go over the entire piece of vellum with pumice to ensure the surface is even. For the final smooth finish you can add chalk to the pumice although I haven't found it necessary on this piece. Any stubborn marks can be carefully erased with a scalpel. Sometimes a slight indentation is left but pressing the vellum flattens it out.
Once completely cleaned and flattened under some heavy books,
it was time to start the new work.
The next blog post will be about the emergence of the new work.