Friday, March 06, 2020

Destroying Artworks

Yesterday, I was working away in the studio on several different projects.  One of them was trying to decide what to do about one particular artwork.  It was a charcoal and pastel portrait that has been sitting there for a few weeks.  I didn't like it.  It was overworked, had a somewhat awkward composition, and had been a fight since the very beginning.  The young woman who was the subject had liked it.  So, rather than trash the artwork right away, it sat in a corner for a while.  Maybe I'd give it to her.  Maybe I shouldn't.  I kept kicking the decision down the road.

I trashed it yesterday.

That's not the first time.  Actually, I trash a fairly large proportion of my works, maybe 50%.  Which brings up the question, why?  Why throw away something that has a lot of time and effort put into it, especially when somebody appreciates it?  Why throw away so much work?

Well, I look at something and ask myself, would I be willing to exhibit that work?  Exhibiting something means that I'm comfortable with putting my name on an artwork and telling the world, "this is what I can do".  If it doesn't meet that standard, there are two choices: change it or destroy it.  Otherwise, it's just another substandard thing that's cluttering up my studio, and trust me, I have enough things cluttering up my studio right now.  Hell, I could put on three simultaneous shows of my own work at any one time.  So adding stuff that I wouldn't want others to see is not something I want to do.

Regarding changing an artwork, yes, I do that sometimes.  Usually it fails, but  it works out occasionally.  A successful change requires me to get into the right mindset.  It sounds corny, but I have to be "one with the painting", meaning the painting and my brain have to be in synch.  If not, it'll be a failure.  The painting also has to have an underlying composition that works and a subject that's interesting.  Just like you can't fix a house with a bad foundation, you can't fix a painting that has a bad composition.

And if I decide a painting has failed?  Two options.  One, sand it down and then slap a coat of oil primer on it.  That gives me a new blank canvas.  Or, if I've already done that a time or two and have decided that this particular canvas is jinxed, it goes into the trash.

And, as for that young woman who liked the artwork that I later destroyed, well, sorry.  Even if I gave it to her, I'd know that there was a substandard piece of art out there with my name on it.  That's intolerable. 

And, yeah, I'll probably give her one of the other artworks where she's the subject ...

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