HOW TO FINISH UNFINISHED WORK: BY JEANEAN SONGCO MARTIN
My studio right now is filled to capacity with work in all stages of development. I must admit that I am a great procrastinator when it comes to finishing old work, especially work that is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The first step is to determine which pieces deem worthy of finishing. My first challenge is to physically be able to get to the work. I love Robert's description of doing the polka in his studio. I don't even have room to do a polka in my little studio It would be more like a slow minuet for fear of toppling something over or myself over. Right now my "le petite studio" as I call my small studio is in serious distress and needs serious re-organization. It is calling to me every morning and saying "Help!! I am drowning in here. I actually have three studio set ups. My first studio is outside. Because I am primarily a plein air landscape painter I work out of doors or inside my car looking out when the weather gets too cold. I keep a my art supplies in the trunk of my car. Everything except paint which will be ruined if it freezes. My second "studio space" is actually a corner of a light-filled dining room where I keep a shelf for books, shelf for a small amount of storage for paintings, supplies, etc. and one small french easel and a small table. This area I keep rather in check as it is part of my family's living space. My " Le petite studio" is a small room, formerly a bedroom that has been converted into a studio space just big enough for a large easel and a few storage shelfs, a chair and that is it. I wanted to keep it small and cozy. The problem is storage. Because of the small size there is not much storage space. I have one entertainment center that works very well as a storage cabinet and that is really the only place I should keep anything. With a space like that one must not keep too many things sitting around. Which brings me to the subject of this article; What to do with unfinished work? I have to admit I am a "saver" but I do not save every single thing. I go through my work periodically mainly when my studio space gets into such a state of dissaray that it is impossible to work in. When this happens, I take everything out and start sorting. I place paintings into categories like: good, bad, maybe, save, terrible, wonderful (yes, you can call your own work wonderful) etc. The good paintings I put aside and place on shelves with cardboard protecting the front and back of each. The bad paintings I either strip from the stretchers or in some cases paint over. I rarely do paint over old paintings though as I do not like the feel of something underneath and I am afraid of pentimenti (underpainting showing through). Paintings that I like but have not sold or I chose not to sell I pack up and place in my son's house. He has kindly offered storage space in a spare bedroom. this is the best solution. Do not store finished paintings in your studio. I do keep a few on the wall that I feel are successful as they give me "hope" that I might be able to pull it off again. In fact, some paintings that I really like I hold off from selling because they give me such confidence that I really can do this and am not a complete failure. The "maybe" paintings I sit down and evaluate. I get out my journal and write down the problems or strengths that I see. If the strengths outweight the problems than I will spend the time to "save" the painting and rework. Titian would turn his unfinished paintings to the wall and then re-evaluate with a fresh eye at a latter dae. This is a good practice to do with a painting that is problematic. Sometimes you need a little time away from the painting to truly understand what it needs. If it simply isn't working in any way shape or form, I get rid of the painting. It is simple as that. Oh, one distinction that I do have is the time element. If I find a painting from twenty years ago for instance, I will never rework it. Paintings have a life of their own and belong to certain "time frames" of your developing work. I think they reflect stages or periods that have brought you to where your work is now and it is important to appreciate them for what they are and what they were to you then. Honest evaluations of your work are very beneficial and essential for progress.