Not every painting lives to see the light of day or gets signed and sold. Not by a long shot. In fact, for every painting that gets finished, and particularly for those that meet the ‘art print’ standard, there are many that don't survive my scrutiny. I’m quite ruthless about my work. If it’s not something I would hang in my own home, then it’s not something I’m going to sign my name to. I’m only as good as my last painting and that painting needs to be good! Susannah kind of good!
And yet this seems to be something people have a hard time understanding. Whenever I post a photo of the “garbage” pile or mention destroying paintings, my Instagram goes crazy. Opinions up the wazoo. I’m inundated with comments and messages like “How could you? It’s so pretty! Paint over and start again! Give it to me! Donate it to charity! Don’t you dare throw it out!” I’m questioned about it so much that I thought I’d write a more fulsome response than the snippy “because it’s mine and I can” answer.
It’s not an exact science but then, art isn’t meant to be. A painting can look fine but if it doesn’t *feel* right to me it very well may not survive. Conversely, a painting might not look perfect, but if it *feels* right to me I’ll happily sign it and find it a home. How a painting feels to me matters just as much (or more) than how it looks in the end.
I don’t want work of mine that I don’t like out there in the world, even as a charitable donation or a “freebie” for a fan. I care far too much about my reputation. And as someone both incredibly frugal and environmentally conscious, adding bad art to landfill is truly a last resort.
Before it gets to that stage, I indeed try re-working a painting, adding layers and layers of paint. Or gesso over entirely and try starting again on a “used” surface. But there comes a point when there’s simply too much material on the canvas to keep going. Dried brushstrokes, unwanted texture and grooves build up, eventually ruining the surface.
Knowing which paintings are worth sticking with and which to say goodbye to is as much an intellectual decision (how it “looks” – colours, composition etc) as an intuitive “knowing” if it has that somethin’ somethin’ I'm aiming for with my work. But honestly, after a while, the bad energy of a not-great painting builds up and it just needs to go.
If I’m particularly frustrated with a painting, I’ve been known to take a knife and slice right through the middle of it (which can feel incredibly liberating!) but usually I just un-staple the canvas and stretch/gesso a new one. There’s nothing so lovely as a pristine new canvas, full of possibility. Old with the old and ugly to make way for the new and beautiful and something I’m proud to sign my name to.