Reinvigorating a Painting by Adding Line

As sometimes happens, I lost the plot. I was doing a little studio study based on my sketches and previous paintings of the River Rha, and at some point I lost too much of the dark and ended up with mid-tone mediocrity and brushwork blended to blandness.

I’d started on a sheet of dark-charcoal pastel paper* that could’ve served as the dark , but painted out too much of it. (*Full disclosure: it wasn’t a carefully considered choice but simply the sheet of A2 that came to hand in a portfolio bag of mixed papers.) I was frustrated with myself, with what I’d done with a brush, so instead of continuing to paint I decided to change mediums, which can be a bit like changing gears. I reached for some oil pastels to redraw a layer of line and hopefully reinvigorate the painting.

Adding line to a painting to reinvigotrate tone or value
(This photo should show four steps, if it doesn’t, try having a look at this blogpost on my website)

Once I’d re-found the joy in the piece, I painted the stream a bit more. I don’t consider it a finished piece as there’s a disconnect between the stream and the rest. But I know where I would go next if I do decide to continue working on this: a layer of paint over the rocks and background, add a suggestion of stream to the right, bit more water-colour that isn’t white to the stream and a flick of splatter.

Why might I not continue with this painting and finish it? Well, it was a warmup, an excuse-for-playing-with-colour moment, a do-something-so-you-feel-productive piece. It might take a little to resolve it and it might take a lot. It might already have served its purpose. I left it taped to the board for now.

4 Replies to “Reinvigorating a Painting by Adding Line”

  1. Thank you for showing your painting in the separate stages. Your use of line
    beautifully defines the forms, enhances the color and unifies the composition.
    It reminds me of the importance of line.

    1. This past year I’ve become increasingly obsessed with line as an integral part of a painting not merely a starting composition sketch. I’ve long loved the paintings of Giacometti with all the line, and who knows where it’ll end!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this Marion. I have many unfinished paintings tucked away in a folders and yet I was for so long totally “drawn” to the line but afraid to do it….
    So I ask myself why? Well my watercolour class tutor years ago was totally against using “mixed media” and of course there was the risk of Spoiling it!! (Probably why I stopped going or progressing!)
    So thanks to you…. I will get out my huge collection of those unfinished projects & experiment later today! ?

    1. Strange how things work out isn’t it — I’ve long loved Giacometti’s use of line in his paintings but only in the last year or so started trying it, also because the absorbed view that drawings can have strong line but paintings don’t, that lines belong at the bottom of a painting and you hide them.

      There’s always a risk of spoiling it, but that’s try whether you’re using one medium or several. A tip I got from a workshop with Kitty Jones was that when you feel you’re on autopilot, or getting too comfotable, to swap mediums and continue working in the same spot. Have fun!

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