Have you ever done something only to cover it up?
I certainly have.
If you took an X-ray of my paintings you’d see other paintings/compositions underneath - some good, some not so good. In fact, when in the process of painting I have to watch that I don’t act too quickly and paint over everything out of frustration or impatience, or not seeing the piece with perspective and distance. My friend often says to me when I show him a painting-in-progress - ‘Don’t do anything to it!! Leave it!!’ Lol.
Other times I’d say it’s probably a good thing I covered it up and started over. I hope they never put an X-ray to those pieces, but if they did, well, it is what it is. In the end, it becomes part of the final piece - the bones and innards of the painting.
I'm not always entirely sure why I cover up a painting already started and not just put it to the side and pick up a new canvas. Perhaps it's because of the expense of canvases, or is it because it's important to rework the piece? It's easy for writers to keep every draft of a work, but painters often have a different approach. They literally deal in layers of texture and paint.
Talking about re-shaping, there is something happening on a massive scale near where I live. They’re in the process of knocking down the large, old Meadowbank Stadium nearby. I could hardly believe it when I saw the cranes coming in and heard the loud bangs. It feels like a moment in time. Such a large beast of a place, and the time, energy and people it takes just to clear it away seems almost as much as putting it up.
Nearby, surrounding the demolition site, are wooden protective walls, and on those walls there are a lot of graffiti. One day last week, while walking by, I noticed two guys painting away with their spray cans, the one seemingly instructing the other in the ways of graffiti’ing. The wall was bright and the work was well done (Although I am not yet an expert in art of graffiti!).
The next day I walked past again and all the work from the day before was gone! Another band of folk had painted over the bright colours and shapes with a darker mood. I’m not sure it’s an improvement, and I was saddened at the loss of the brightness of the work from before, but it shows a constant work in progress, along with collaboration, not holding anything too precious.
I just covered up a painting I started some time ago and have been plugging away at, having little success. I’m not sure if it was the colours, the subject matter…. Often I think it is the composition - If I don’t nail that right away, the piece is not easily redeemable, I find, and I go round and round in circles.
So I painted over it, with a new composition, a new idea, a new shape. Et voila - it’s better (in my view). It’s still a work-in-progress, but I’m pleased with the new direction it’s taking.
For me, it doesn’t take much to cover a painting and start over again, but I know it is harder for others, and I know that sometimes I can be too hasty and might need to sit with a piece a bit longer before deleting it. Other times it’s tempting to hold parts of a painting too precious, and covering up would be the better option.
Either way, I’m glad for the redemption there is with a canvas and a painting, and the journey involved to it’s final completion.
What do you do? What is your tendency? To cover up, or to hang on? I guess much of the creative process (and life!) is about checking ourselves, the work, and letting go when necessary - as well as holding on when we’re onto a good thing - and discerning the difference.