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Some paintings happen in a short burst---all the stars align, and I have an innate sense of how to proceed and finish the piece--sometimes within a few weeks. But more often than not, I flog away at difficult pieces--pulling them out to work on them, and then putting them away for months at a time.
Near the end of each year, over the quiet Christmas holiday, I launch an all out effort to finish some of these "straggler" paintings and clear them out of my studio. This is the story of one such painting, an acrylic on canvas that I call "Mapping It Out #4".
1.It began as a small 12 x 16" canvas onto which I slathered some color--I used an opaque mixture of burnt orange as my underpainting.
2. I then marbled over the canvas in a contrasting navy blue color..
3. I painted an aqua bird as a bright contrast to the orange background, but wasn't sure how to proceed
4. I added some black, red, and orange, and made two birds, but still wasn't very happy with it.
5. So I marbled the whole painting again!
6. Things got too busy, so I blocked in some black gesso.
7. I cut out and collaged some marbled tissue papers to create a "moon" effect.
8. A month later, I looked at the piece again and decided I could turn the birds into something else.
9. With nothing to lose, I laid a stencil over the top (a map like grid) and painted aqua and red through the stencil creating a patchwork type grid.
10. Now I was getting somewhere, as I decided I'd make two overlapping figures (hence the title "Mapping It Out"). Notice I reoriented the painting so that the bottom is now the top.
From there, it was just a matter of blocking in some darks (notice the version with taped-on black construction paper), and painting out that distracting red curve. At long last, I was done!
Can We Fix It? Yes, We Can!
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Artist Liz Walker
I'm a painter/art instructor who lives and works in Portland, Oregon.