Get Drastic, Not Desperate (in order to rescue a painting)

I’ve had quite a few rounds with a second version of Listening to Earthworms over the last few days — layering, glazing, blocking out with opaque, wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry — but never getting it working satisfactorily enough. Looking at it today I reminded myself: if it’s not working, don’t tweak but do something drastic. So I took a colour I don’t usually use, black, and ended up with a painting I like.

The change from the beginning to end of today’s session with this painting is shown in the two photos below. I used Golden’s High Flow acrylic, letting it run and encouraging it to spread by spraying water on it. Previous layers had some flow medium in it, which helps fluid paint spread too. Colours: carbon black, titanium white, quinacridone gold and a grey I’d mixed. Scroll down for four detail photos and one showing the texture in the bottom half of the painting, the first two slightly larger than life. I’ve called it “Rooted“.

Rooted painting
Before and After. Numbers relate to the detail photos below.


Texture in a painting
Detail showing texture

13 Replies to “Get Drastic, Not Desperate (in order to rescue a painting)”

    1. Thanks Larry! Like many things, my not using pure black is a habit that’s developed. I tend to use Prussian blue, perylene green for dark, and a chromatic black. I discourage beginners from using black because it all too easily creates muddy colour mixes and hinders the investigation of colour in dark shadows (“it’s dark, I’ll use black”), but it can be fabulous and I’ve admired other artists’ use of it.

  1. Hi Marion,
    Just goes to show ya, it never hurts to experiment. I’ve used chromatic black a lot but now I’ll get some of the liquid easy flowing kind. It rally does bring out areas you want to stand out. Thanks for continuing to pass on info gained while doing your work. Sometimes we really do need a bigger hammer.

    1. I think you’ll enjoy “going with the flow”! Some of the underlying layers had some flow medium mixed in them, which I think of as really slippery water 😉 Even when dry, subsequent layers flow and spread more readily over areas that have this. Add in texture, bumps and ridges, and interesting things happen!

      I have a piece of folded-up canvas (from a roll) underneath the stretched canvas I’m working on to soak up paint that runs off the bottom.

      1. Yes, I did a few with drips in them and found right away that I needed something to catch the runoff especially if the colors differed from the color of the rug. LOL I will try the canvas, after awhile I might be able to frame it.

    1. Thanks Buff! I’m pleased with it too; the black was just what it needed. I only had the black because it was part of a set of High Flow, but glad I did!

    1. Sheila, Yes, there’s the risk it’ll make things worse, but when you’re at a point where a painting isn’t working anyway, then if it does get worse all you’ve lost some time and paint (and gained some additional frustration). But if it works…well…happiness!

      I started with only a little bit of black, watched what it did, thought it had potential and then went with it. I also had my spraybottle of water and papertowel to hand in case I didn’t like it and wanted to wash/wipe it off,

  2. The black really worked well. It doesn’t look at all what I would think a true black would look. Good call!

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