Thursday, 10 March 2011

The story of an imperfect artwork

The other day I was talking to an artist friend about what we do when a piece just doesn't work as we'd planned. Sometimes the deviation from our vision is a wonderful surprise, but here I'm going to talk about those times when the surprise is less than wonderful.
If you've been following this blog, you'll have seen a couple of progress reports on the first of my new Pattern collection for my upcoming exhibition. You'll know how excited I have been to let go of 'what I should be doing' and allow myself to diddle about with felt tip pens doing entirely abstract patterns on tiny canvasses.

Prototype Stage One

I very much enjoyed creating this pattern, and in that sense it has been a success. But, as warned by some of you, the colours have already faded. You can see the beginnings of it here, particularly in the pinks. At this stage 'Pattern One' (of twenty, gulp!) was retitled 'Prototype'. Obviously a fading piece would not be good enough to exhibit or sell.

Prototype Stage Two

At this stage it may have been prudent to stop work, but I know from experience that the trickinesses experienced at the beginning of a piece are often different to those encountered at the end, so I continued in the spirit of experimentation. 

I relearned some of what I used to know about felt tips: how individual pens need different pressures and angles to get the same result; how the colours can bleed and mix; how the texture of the surface influences the final appearance. And a lot of that I can make use of when I begin the real Pattern One with my lovely Faber Castell Artist Brush Pens which will NOT fade :o).

Prototype Stage Three
By Stage Three you can clearly see the fading. Compare the blues. And the red (below) has disappeared! But also I could see how much I liked the idea; I was buzzing with multiple variation possibilities as I coloured and that alone makes this exercise worth the time and squinting.
Finished Prototype

So, did I create art good enough to exhibit? No.
Was it what I wanted? Not entirely, no.
Has it been a necessary stage in creating fabulous, quality works I can sell? Very possibly.

A final thought: After I'd finished this and lined up all my progress shots, I started wondering about the lovely shapes more obvious in the incomplete canvasses. So, not only has the process taught me a lot about how to create the finished piece I want; I also realise I need to reassess when each piece is finished and that photographing my work is a useful way of getting that perspective.

Do you make prototypes of new forms?
And how is it when you're less than thrilled with your work?


  1. Just a technical query: I wonder is applying some sort of spray adhesive directly after the 'penning' would stop/limit the fading? You'd have to cover up the rest of the canvas. I can remember using hairspray to cover charcoal sketches.

  2. Thanks Chrisky. It would need to stop whatever aspect of the light does the fading. So maybe there's a UV-blocking spray (or whatever), but it sounds too grim and chemically for me.
    And I'm excited about my new pens.

  3. I don't know. I like it. It gives me a warm safe feeling like a cushion. The fading helps give me that feeling.

    It made me feel relaxed and I smiled.

  4. Like a cushion from my Grandmother's house I meant to say.

  5. Um... It is late and I should be in bed, but looking at the finished piece beside me on the table - I think it might have finished fading... The early pinks now look if anything a bit brighter than the later. The earlier greens and blues now look a bit faded compared to the later ones, but could it be that the fading slows down after a few weeks?

    To your questions - I often try to do a prototype, but if I put in too much effort (more than 5 mins!) it becomes the finished piece. It seems I am not very good at doing something by half, or redoing the same thing twice. I wish I was, if I could it would improve my art.

    I am almost always less than thrilled immediately after creating something, then go through ever expanding ripples of like/dislike from then on. If I don't look at something for more than a year it becomes permanently good. I try not to take my inner critic to seriously, and try to engage its creative criticism only when working or thinking about the next piece - this prevents me from getting down on my work.

    I love this prototype ripple rainbow fire big bang lichen growth very much - I hope as it is a prototype it can stay in our house on the wall until it fades back to a blank canvas. I am actually quite excited that you have managed to get dynamism and change into what should with all rights be a static creation. I hope it is on our walls when we are 80, a yellowed pale rectangle of memory only we can access...

  6. Cyfaill, that's lovely, thank you. Your Grandmother has great cushions! I just couldn't guarantee that it would be so appreciated by anyone who bought it, so Ent will get his wish and have it on our wall, at least for a while.
    Ent, your ripples of (dis)like echo mine. The portrait we drew last night had improved considerably while I slept.
    Posting my artwork here gives me more perspective and, although it's scary, it actually helps me feel fond of what I've done.

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