When A Painting Gets Stuck

Some years ago, after a long holiday break, I had trouble getting back into a painting I had begun earlier.  What was I thinking when I started this canvas? 

Who knows, not me.

The background on this painting was black with two-inch parchment stripes across it.  I had worked on it once or twice after that, and there was a design or pattern taking shape, but it seemed too amorphous.  What I like to do often is to bring order out of chaos while leaving in enough signs of the chaos to retain a sense of ambiguity or chance.  There is a delicate balance that I find if I'm lucky. 

The reason I bring "luck" into it is that you have to simply take the plunge and try something to see if it works.  If it doesn't, you can't simply "erase it" and start over.  Once you've made a major move on a painting, you are pretty much committed to making it work.  You're not going to be able to remove the last layer of paint without disturbing what was beneath it. 

Well, on this particular painting, I chose to use raw umber lines to outline the parchment shapes, thereby creating more definition and less chaos.  From there, I went on to feather those lines with a brush, and the painting did look much better at that point.  I could almost have signed it and moved on.

That might have been the wiser choice, but instead I kept working at further definition. That is, I went too far in the defining direction, which then left the amorphous background looking out of place or "wrong."  To sum it up, I destroyed the delicate balance I had going for me and now the painting was completely out of kilter.  There was no way to simply "tinker" with it to bring it into balance. 

I waited a day for the canvas to dry, and tackled it again.  This time, I had some success.

Here it is, finally finished: my "stuck" painting:

Ringed Migration, 40" x 40" (sold)

Ringed Migration, 40" x 40" (sold)