This was recovered in moderately good shape- it measured 21"x27"- before I chopped it up.

There’s a state of grace that comes from being given a second chance -and another shot at old artwork. A method of self-critique many artists employ is to turn a questionable artwork to the wall…and leave it there, for years, if necessary. A few years in the limbo pile gives the eye time to refresh and some perspective to develop. Now (hopefully) the flaws can be seen- along with some sort of creative solution.

Perspective comes in many forms, including natural disasters. Artwork that came through the storm with no damage has been evaluated with a tougher eye for quality. The 21″ x 27″ pastel above was done in the studio from field sketches drawn alongside a burbling tributary of the mighty Amazon. It went on exhibit last year in “Drawing the Motmot” at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History.

I pulled this big pastel from its sleeve and asked myself: Did I like it enough to keep it? The answer was no, not entirely. Meaning, I liked part of it, but not all of it.

I cut out the part I liked.

The part I liked.

It got easier after that. More pieces have been pulled, evaluated and reworked. Sometimes it’s a go, other times the piece goes back into the drawer (my version of turning it to the wall) for another long spell. Sometimes it gets pitched.

Golden Eagle, before.
Golden Eagle, after, with oomph. At the JRB Art at the Elms Gallery in Oklahoma City.

Another direction is to turn lost works into new ones. A lost drawing of a black-breasted puffbird sketched on Barro Colorado Island was scanned before the storm. I redrew it onto specially prepared, hand-toned and shellacked Rives BFK paper. It’s a technique developed by the Old Masters back in the day, one I’ve been playing with, and it’s a beautiful and striking look. See what you think.

A scan of the original drawing, lost to the twister.
Black-breasted puffbird, pastel and graphite. It got a new home- it was recently sold by JRB Art at the Elms Gallery.

I’m getting ready to start a big new work on wood panel. It was delivered today off the back of a truck- a cradled birch panel measuring 5 feet by 4. I’ll hoist it onto the wall. I have some field sketches I’ve been playing with, and they’ll get drawn onto the panel once the gesso base has been layered on and sanded down . It will, at least, be sturdy. I’ll post progress as I go, but this one should be an adventure.

8 thoughts on “Recycling

  1. ramona says:

    More like a resurrection I’d say.
    Fantastic that your work is so lovingly cared for.
    The new version of the black breasted puffbird is a golden feast for the eye.
    So good to see your work again.
    Looking forward to seeing the new work on birch panel.

  2. Stefanie Graves says:

    Reworking is a good thing. I’m sure some folks gasp at the idea of ripping apart (literally) a work of art to get to the gem. I’ve done it a few times to good advantage. Love the puff bird.

  3. Ken Januski says:

    For some reason I happened to notice the tags for this post a day after I’d read it for the first time. Adventure? I didn’t remember that. Then I saw the last line. It does sound like it will be an adventure, and I hope a fruitful one.

    I’ve never been one to tear up my works, though I have many friends who have. Two different ways of working I think. But you sure have made good use of your reworkings here. Both the Golden Eagle and foliage near the Amazon look really strong in their reincarnations. And the puff bird just looks great either way!

  4. zeladoniac says:

    A few years ago I took a jigsaw and cut a finished painting down the middle. One half was entered in the Birds in Art juried show at the Woodson Museum in Wisconsin- it was accepted, too. Sometimes the parts are preferable to the whole.

    Ken- sliding out of the comfort zone is an adventure. Scaling up and working large is a stretch-I hope by making it big it will feel more like a piece of habitat. If that fails, I’ll gesso over and try again.

    Thanks for the great comments- keep them coming!

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