The original “Cascades” was created a few years ago and featured vines cascading down a rock wall. It was inspired by a walk along a rugged cliff, draped in vines of ivy. The ivy draped like curtains and helped cool the warm summer air.
There were elements that I liked within the subsequent painting, but it was missing something. I initially added subtle flowers to the vines, thinking that would add a bit of color. But it was still lacking. I went ahead and framed it, thinking that might help give it a “finished” look. But the painting sat for 2 years on a storage shelf. I was not yet willing to destroy the piece to reclaim the paper. But I did not think it was strong enough to present it to the public.
About a month ago I pulled it off the shelf and out of the frame and set it up in my studio where I could see it in passing. A few times a year I revisit older paintings to decide their fate: worthy of promoting, keep them as a lesson learned, rework to see if I can make them stronger, or reclaim the paper.
After about a week of casually glancing at the painting whenever I was working in the studio, it dawned on me, it needs a waterfall! I cut the painting in half, editing out some parts that I liked (the stair-stepped rocks on the right), but which did not contribute to the whole. I added the waterfall and a pool, established rocks to the left of the waterfall and softened the vines.
One of the challenges with revisiting a painting after that long of a period is trying to figure out what colors and pastels I had used in the original. For the painting to look cohesive and maintain its color harmony, rediscovering the colors is critical. Since I was adding new elements, the waterfall and pool, I needed to make sure that colors from the original scene would be incorporated into these new elements. And I went further and introduced some of the colors used in the water into other parts of the painting. This creates the illusion that the waterfall was there all the time and belongs.
As artists, we are continually learning and developing our skills. There are days that a painting will be a struggle. It need not go into the trash. Step away from it. Let it rest. Every painting does not have to be “frame-worthy.” It may be an exercise or a lesson learned. Or one day you will glance at it in passing and the answer will be there waiting for you.