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Downsizing

June 12, 2012

Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Alex Nodopaka of Lake Forest, California, USA, wrote, "What do you think about making art by cutting larger paintings into several pieces, and also cropping existing work slightly smaller? Also, what's the recommended way to do this?"

Thanks, Alex. Very often, a large "mish-mash"--poorly composed or overly cluttered work--can have a better life by turning it into two or three smaller works. To get an idea of potential compositions within paintings, try moving frames of various sizes around in the offending work. Two "L" shaped cards are okay, too, but they don't always lead to the preferred standard sizes. Paintings often take on new strength and presence when they are even slightly cropped. For example, a 12" x 16" can often be downsized to 11" x 14" to good effect. A 24" x 30" can theoretically be turned into a 16" x 20", a couple of vertical 10" x 12"s and a pair of 8" x 10"s.

While a laborious and time-consuming job, canvas can be removed from stretchers by pulling out all the staples and re-stretching on different stretchers. I prefer to mount canvas onto boards. You need to knife the canvas slightly larger than the proposed size. Excellent prepared boards with reversible heat-activated conservator's adhesive for this exact purpose are provided by various companies including Art Boards of Brooklyn, New York. You get everything hot in your kitchen oven and then roll the canvas down with a brayer.

For smaller work I glue down with not-so-reversible acrylic medium. Some artists use one of the various carpenter's glues, but I don't recommend them. After cutting the canvas from the old stretcher I spread straight medium onto quarter-inch (or thicker) mahogany plywood cut to the required size. I press the canvas to the panel using a book press. (A couple of old Britannicas will do.) After the work has adhered to the panel, the overlapping canvas is knifed off and you have a fresh new painting. Give the back (and edges) a coat of thinned medium or varnish to help prevent warping.

It's okay to go in and finesse your downsized work. Often, the new format suggests painterly opportunities you didn't see before. Sign and go.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "A well-composed painting is half done." (Pierre Bonnard)

Esoterica: It's often a mystery why compositions get out of whack. A well-composed painting can be spotted from across a room and draw folks toward it. A mish-mash sends them on their way--no matter how well done its parts. Sometimes it's just a matter of too much space around some of the elements within the picture plane. In other cases the artist has lost control of the eye-control. While it's desirable to compose well to start with, cropping and downsizing are legitimate ploys. Knives, skill-saws and glues are treasured tools of aware artists. FYI, we've put some photos of the process in action at the top of the current clickback.





Reworking older paintings
by Suzanne DesRosiers


Thank you for explaining in such wonderful detail, including your step-by-step photos. I do have Laguna Meadows<br>beeswax painting by Suzanne DesRosiers Laguna Meadows
beeswax painting
a question, as you say there might be an opportunity to enhance the newly-sized piece by some reworking. If a painting is, say, 10 years old and it is a piece done either in acrylic or water soluble oil paints, is this possible or is this approach of downsizing only applicable to new fresh work.

(RG note) Thanks, Suzanne. I've done it to lackluster twenty-year-olds. Whether oil or acrylic, you need to make sure any varnish is removed before you go in and rework. Remove oil varnish with varnish remover. With water soluble oils in particular, test a corner to make sure there was enough binder (medium) in the original painting. You will know the painting is not suitable for adding material if the surface becomes chalky or flaky. Acrylic varnish is removed with a soft rag and household ammonia. Do it outside to avoid the fumes and wash the remainder away with lots of clean water.



There are 2 comments for Reworking older paintings by Suzanne DesRosiers

From: Suzanne -- Jun 14, 2012

Thank you Robert!

From: robinchaney -- Jun 15, 2012

What type of board are you using for a support?
thanks,
robin


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Little gems discovered
by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia


Last year I went through a shed full of works that just weren't moving for one reason or another. Adelaide Town Hall Rain<br>acrylic painting by Mike Barr Adelaide Town Hall Rain
acrylic painting
Many paintings went into the bin but others were cut down to size, sometimes dramatically, and made much better compositions. I tend to like a lot of sky in my works to give them scale, but I saw that the main focus of some works were lost because of it. Anyway, my slash and burn voyage into the shed produced a whole 'new' set of works that have found their way into homes abroad instead of a tired old storeroom. I thoroughly recommend the process to any artist who has a growing number of paintings filling the house. Little gems are bound to be discovered.



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Sealing boards of larger sizes
by Andrea Pottyondy, Fall River, NS, Canada


For mounting paper onto board would it be advisable to gesso the board first then use an adhesive, Jumpin' Jive<br>acrylic painting by Andrea Pottyondy Jumpin' Jive
acrylic painting
medium.? ...I wish I could use the heat activated boards but my artworks are 25 x 35 and my oven wouldn't be able to accommodate large boards!

(RG note) Thanks, Andrea. Gesso is fine. I always seal the wooden board first with a thinned coat of acrylic mediumóboth sides and edges. Mounting paper on board requires that you use one of the recommended acid free paper glues. YES! Paste is popular with crafters and is 100% acid free. Elmer's Glue is okay. Most available glue sticks have been found to be untrustworthy and don't seem to last. Acrylic medium, which is very popular with some artists can creep through paper if badly applied and make nasty blotches. Regarding large sizes for the prepared heat activated boards by Art Boards , the kitchen oven is pretty well limited to 16"x 20" and smaller.



There is 1 comment for Sealing boards of larger sizes by Andrea Pottyondy

From: Kathleen -- Jun 16, 2012

Wonderful painting!


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Folding around edges of board
by Lena Leszczynski, Vancouver, BC, Canada


If I understand correctly, you are not folding the edges around the mahogany board, just cutting them Untitled<br>original painting by Lena Leszczynski Untitled
original painting
to exactly the same size, once glued on? Is that right?

(RG note) Thanks, Lena. That's right. Some artists like to fold. I find folding to be time consuming and unnecessary. Further, when more than one work is being released from a larger canvas, you might need all the canvas you can get.



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Chopped up art for Halloween treats
by Grace Cowling, Grimsby, ON, Canada


I have to smile at today's letter. Seventeen years ago when we moved house Halloween was approaching. Sanctuary<br>watercolour painting by Grace Cowling Sanctuary
watercolour painting
What to do with an inventory of watercolour paintings? I cut them into 2" squares on my Dahl and mounted them on 4" squares of mat board. On the big night I arranged them on a large tray for the trick-or-treaters and they made quite a hit. One each-a-piece, guys. Some parents informed me their kids put them up in their rooms and of the course the next year "great expectations" arrived at the door. Two years pretty well exhausted the supply. Meanwhile I got a smile from the abstracts that emerged, never having been one for abstracts.



There are 3 comments for Chopped up art for Halloween treats by Grace Cowling

From: Silvia Forrest -- Jun 15, 2012

What a wonderful idea! I may borrow it in the future with your permission. Lovely painting too.

From: Jan Ross -- Jun 16, 2012

What a great idea! Another one I've implemented is cutting up paintings and mounting them on precut watercolor cards. So far, everyone who's received one has loved them and either framed them or hung them on their office walls.

From: Lisa Chakrabarti -- Jun 16, 2012

That is one brilliant idea!


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Masonite as support
by Peter Pook, ON, Canada


With regards to down-sizing, nothing beats painting on 1/16" Masonite. Score the desired cut line with a carpet knife several times on both sides and place the cut line on the edge of a table. Apply slight pressure and you get a clean sharp edge so both sides can be salvaged if desired.

(RG note) Thanks, Peter. Masonite is the trade name of a hard pressed board that goes by other names in other countries. The really hard (dark and shiny) surface of some gives it away as "Tempered Masonite." This product is loaded with acids which will cause foxing that can creep through even stout cotton or linen canvas. You need to seal it thoroughly. Better still, use the more hairy (lighter coloured) product called "Untempered Masonite."



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The hair of the mongoose
by Loretta Hauser


I use mongoose hair brushes and when I really splurge, linen canvas. The difference is like fine come here<br>oil painting by Loretta Hauser come here
oil painting
European chocolate versus a Hershey bar. I do not hold a degree in Fine Art--my degrees are in literature and education--but I have studied art most of my life, and I have taken many classes. My "outsider artist" education is apparent in that some of my paintings are good and others look like they were created by a disturbed mind.

First problem: does anyone know how to preserve mongoose hair brushes? I clean them but I still get a stiffness factor that I hate. The best product I've found so far is Fels Naptha, a laundry soap bar for less than $2.00 at the grocery store, but still the brushes get stiff unless I am using them every day.

(RG note) Thanks, Loretta. I was absent the day they covered Mongeese in art school. Perhaps our readers might be able to offer some advice.



There are 4 comments for The hair of the mongoose by Loretta Hauser

From: Jeanette R. -- Jun 14, 2012

I wash them with Turpenoid Natural, which is non-toxic. Next, I rinse them with water. Finally, I wash them with either baby shampoo or mild dish detergent, and rinse them well. They're nice and soft for the next painting session.

From: Bob Perrish -- Jun 14, 2012

I clean all my brushes in a "brush cleaner" solvent you can get from the hardware store, and immediately after I clean them with Murphy's Soap, full strength. Leaves them like new.

From: Nina Allen Freeman -- Jun 15, 2012

Murphy's Oil Soap - you buy it in the grocery store. Meant for floors but will completely clean dried paint from a brush if you leave it soaking overnight.

From: Diane Overmyer -- Jun 15, 2012

I recently heard from a fellow plein air painter to swipe oil painting brushes through vaseline, (petroleum jelly). Leave the vaseline on the brushes, then wipe it off just prior to painting with them again.


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A valuable connection
by Andre Satie, Ensenada, Baja, CA, USA


I recently saw a painting I loved in one of your clickbacks. I followed up by going to the artist's Morning on the jetty<br>original painting by Andre Satie Morning on the jetty
original painting
site, John Ferrie's . I've been trying to learn to use acrylics, for many reasons, and having difficulty. I wrote to him with admiration for his work, and a mention of my personal struggle. He answered by offering advice if I'd send him some of my work. There followed some correspondence, and .... wow and voila' .... his advice was what I needed. I finished a fun piece and am satisfied now that I can, indeed, use acrylics and enjoy the process. Here is my first attempt, done after a watercolor sketch done a couple of years ago. Thanks for the website, thanks for the clickbacks, and thanks to John.

(RG note) Thanks, Andre. It's very satisfying when we hear of all the new and old connections, friendships, sales and trades that are made between artists and others. So far, to my knowledge, there have been at least two weddings that resulted from people corresponding from this site.



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Quite a cut-up
by Alex Nodopaka, Lake Forest, CA, USA


Thank you for picking up my suggestion about downsizing and giving me a boost through your <br>original painting (left) and downsized examples (centre, right) by Alex Nodopaka
original painting (left) and downsized examples (centre, right)
letter.

As a matter of fact, let me expand on the subject. It happened recently that I suggested to an artist the very thing you speak so knowledgeably about and the artist, without saying he was offended by my suggestion, didn't see my point and refused to cut down his painting. Let me explain more clearly:

I bought a rather well executed full figure nude portrait. Fortunately or not, it lent itself to being 2 wonderful abstracted nudes. I bought the piece for a miserly sum and swear my suggestion was worth no less than ten-fold upping the price had the artist understood what I meant.

The details are that the artwork was an excellent 'studio' student study, a stigma for a higher priced item, with a full facial portrait. By eliminating the facial identification and further abstracting it, at least one, if not two, excellent paintings would've been made.



There are 3 comments for Quite a cut-up by Alex Nodopaka

From: Mikki -- Jun 15, 2012

Did it ever occur to you that you, even though you paid a sum for the painting, have violated the artists' copyright? No matter how great a job on increasing the value of the work you think you did, you still viotaled the Geneva Convention ruling that a work is copyrighted when it is created. Shame on you!

From: Hugo -- Jun 15, 2012

I don't think so Mikki. As long as Alex is not taking credit for, or trying to sell the work in the altered state - I think he can do whatever he wants with the work he bought. Or was that why so many people were mad at me when they saw my brand new 1970 chopped BMW motorbike? Personally, I'm saving up for a large Rembrandt to sell in pieces. They are way too busy and would improve by segmenting.

From: Jim -- Jun 15, 2012

Rauschenberg asked de Kooning for a sketch that he then proceeded to erase. But, he negotiated the transaction with the artist, telling him what he was going to do with it. It is one thing to ask an artist to cut up his work to please a client, but once the artist refuses, it just seems to me to be incredibly disrespectful to buy the work and then do to it what the artist refused to do. If I felt that strongly about it I would commission the artist to paint two new pieces for me, and PAY HIM for the new work.


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Donna Dickson workshops  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Donna Dickson workshops

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Mike Grandmaison, Winnipeg, MB, Canada



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Tommy Hunt who wrote, "I just started downsizing the size of my canvases to 8x8 inches (as well as the price) in the hope of encouraging sales. Another form of downsizing you could say."

And also Jacques Borel of Paris, France, who wrote, "It makes sense to downsize for yet another reason my friend. With the aging populations people are downsizing their living accommodations and moving into smaller flats that take smaller art."


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Downsizing...

From: Annette Waterbeek -- Jun 11, 2012

Yes...this tells me no matter how well equipped one is...there is always improvements that can be made...and the realization of this ...shows great wisdom!

From: Faith -- Jun 12, 2012

Very sound advice if the composition of the painting is balanced enough, but it works the other way around, too. If you have a bit of a painting that you really like whilst the rest is rubbish (in your view), you can isolate it (editing a photo of it is probably the most convenient way and does nto damage the original painting) and then upsize your idea and incorporate or develop it into something new. Of course, this is not a solution if it's only the edges of a painting that bother you. Then resizing is the best option, but again I think editing a photo of your work is a lot less laborious than fiddling with mats and you can decide on a standard (proportional) smaller size for the painting. When that is achieved you can used the appropriate sized mat over the original painting to make a final decision.
Another way is to incorporate any favoured bit(s) into collage. I'm quite sure a lot of painters recycle work that way.

From: Sandy Sandy -- Jun 12, 2012

Have done this often (and easily) with my watercolors! That's one of the reasons why I don't usually throw away my rejects. ☺

From: Claire Remsberg -- Jun 12, 2012

To Robert and other readers: I would like to know other sources of prepared boards with reversible heat-activated conservator's adhesive. thanks

From: Andrew Clement -- Jun 12, 2012

This morning I am going over my old big bad ones looking forsmall nuggets of gold. Thank you.

From: Jan Yatsko -- Jun 12, 2012

I crop, cut up and frame old paintings and leave them in public places as small gifts of abundance. There is a message on the back indicating that the painting is meant to be a gift to the finder.

From: Suzette Fram -- Jun 12, 2012

I used to crop all the time when I was working on paper, but I haven't done it since I switched to canvas. THANK YOU for the idea and the great instructions. I may revive some older paintings yet.

From: Ruth G. Farnham -- Jun 12, 2012

I recently cut a painting into 4 equal pieces and restretched them, attaching the canvas all the way around the stretcher bars as I didn't want frames. The painting, being abstract, was quite amenable to this. I put picture wire exactly in the middle of the stretchers; that way I could hang them in both directions. I am still planning to add picture wire in the exact middle going the other way, which allows me to hang the 4 individual paintings in 4 different ways. They can be arranged and rearranged almost endlessly and look good no matter how they are hung.
I cut another painting, which was semi-abstract, into 3 pieces that were of different sizes and have had a good time changing them from time to time.
It is truly interesting to achieve a variety of arrangements which produces entirely different compositions.

From: John Ferrie -- Jun 12, 2012

Dear Robert,
This is the DUMBEST idea you have ever come up with! The message behind an artists work should be about the journey. Piecing together these Frankenstein works where this "part was good" is not sending out a good message for artists and is an irresponsible piece of advice. Artists need to know the art of letting go. When a piece, no matter how good one area is, needs to tank a painting when it is not the right voice. This is how artists learn to hone their craft of the vocabulary they are communicating in their art. An artists needs to allow the voice to come through them. Hacking away at bits and pieces of art where they had a fluke here and there is not only not fair to the viewer seeing it, it is no way for an artist to mature and bloom.
John Ferrie

From: Tatjana M-P -- Jun 12, 2012

I don't feel about it as strongly as John, but I tend to agree that this exercise gives me a feeling of avoidance. Although for Robert that sounds unlikely since he is so prolific. For myself, looking back I find that I have always been fond of fiddling with old works - as an escape from real work on a blank canvas.

From: Maxine Price -- Jun 12, 2012

CROP is my favorite four letter word or it used to be when I worked in experimental water media. Trying to find the workable parts actually taught me a lot about comosition. When I switched to oils and wrapped canvas I had to make sure my composition and my painting fit to the size of the canvas. I do occaisionally decide that a painting would be better if it were framed and since I work pretty large I have found that one eithth inch gator board is a great surface to mount my canvas on once it is cut off the stretcher bars. It is a very light weight and rigid surface.

From: Tatjana -- Jun 12, 2012

...and what a waste of the beautiful mahogany plywood! It would lovely to paint directly on it!

From: Virginia Karayi -- Jun 12, 2012

I like your idea. I did downsize one painting and the piece I removed deserved it. It was thrown in the garbage. It did not suit the painting.

From: Nancy Stewart -- Jun 12, 2012

One of my favorite Winslow Homer paintings--a beach scene in Long Branch, NJ--I understand was actually divided by the painter. It is a compelling scene of bathers with their back to the viewer. Interesting to see this note today.

From: Elle Fagan -- Jun 12, 2012

I have done just that and it works! Also, the prepared boards idea sounds super and I did not know they existed...thanks so much

From: Faith -- Jun 12, 2012

Ouch, John. I don't agree with your view. "Honing one's craft" entails reworking, rehashing, destroying, creating, recreating, adapting, liking, hating, rejecting and lots of other -ings, but the best -ing is, I think, rescuing - what is good, and scrapping the rest. If that means making a bonfire, tearing rome down, swimming the Atlantic etc..... all well and good. Examining a painting critically, even if it's one's own, is a step in the right direction. It's called "learning by doing" - a couple more -ings for the list!

From: Diane Overmyer -- Jun 12, 2012

Thanks for giving me the courage to do this Robert. When I first started plein air painting I tended to rush right into the piece more than I do now. Now I realize that it is vital to get the composition worked out and worked out well before applying paint to the canvas. I have several of my early plein air works that I have not shown due to compositional issues, so I may try cropping them. I have used Photoshop also to find the best composition I could come up with, if I cropped something.

From: Steve Day -- Jun 12, 2012

Sorry, "downsizing" strikes me as trying to repair a work that wasn't up to snuff to start with. I'm a potter, and once the clay is turned back into rock, it is there for the ages. Or, until I smash it to bits.

Clay, paint, and canvas are cheap. A hard earned reputation is not- don't waste it!

From: Fleta Monaghan -- Jun 12, 2012

I just finished the biography of Lee Krasner by Gail Levin. Krasner twice attacked her old drawings and paintings, cutting and tearing and recomposing into the most wonderful collages. They must be seen to believe how wonderful they are. She even reinvented the classwork she had saved from Hans Hoffman's classes. What a great way to reinvent and stay original! The book was good too.

From: Laurel McBrine -- Jun 12, 2012

There are so many, but for motivation and entertainment, I like fellow Canadian Robert Genn's book "The Letters" - plus it is big enough to use as a doorstop! Don't miss the zingers in the back - hilarious! I love his wry sense of humor.

From: Bernie Bellanger -- Jun 12, 2012

This is the most informed group of painter-artists on the internet. Thank you to all. Going back through the responses is truly amazing.

From: John Ferrie -- Jun 12, 2012

Faith, lighten up with your "ouch", no big whoop. BUT, there is nothing more disappoint-ing that the term "half baked". "So, when i did this piece, this was the only part that worked" or "I got this part from the trash as the rest was a hot mess"...These are not good features when an artist is describ-ing or sell-ing their works. Bottom line is how the public responds to their works by either like-ing or BUY-ING their works!

From: Jane Kelsey -- Jun 13, 2012

I am grateful to Glenn Secrest for getting me on to your subscription list. The first thing I read was "Your Inner Shadow ". Wow does that hit home --- I am glad to know I am not alone !! I think I shall find great encouragement in your weekly letters. I shall look forward to them --- thank you so much ,

From: Faith -- Jun 13, 2012

John! I know and appreciate your work. You have a clear working concept and use tools you are skilled with. But not everyone has reached a stage when everything is "in butter", as the Germans say. I see it as positive when an artist (including me, of course) can admit that a work is not entirely successful or even a big disaster. The easiest way is to overpaint or destroy. The hard part is to resuce the flash of inspiration that made even a tiny fraction of that artwork worth rescuing.
Of course, if it's breakable it's a different matter. And in other art forms there are comparable problems. On stage, for example, if you miss a cue in an opera perfromance, that does not bring everything to a halt, though it is infuriating. When a pianist makes a recording of a Chopin etude he is sure to remember the wrong note that strayed in and torments him every time he hears it. Too many wrong notes and the recording is scrapped, but the energy of learning and perfecting the "trade" is not lost. That is one reason for rescuing anything worth the effort!

From: John Ferrie -- Jun 13, 2012

Dear Faith,
It is the conductor of the symphony who can pick out the flat note in a piece of music. We artists, who are like the maestro of our canvas, need to be as keyed into our pieces and tuned into our works as if we are conducting a symphony. Of course we make mistakes and we do that by working beyond what we already know. This is the sign of true creativity. But you're reasoning is also the same reason why I find Robert's advice to be so irresponsible. And while you might think I have a clear working concept, I assure you I do not. I know my work can always be better, I also know that the bulk of the greatest works of my life is still a head of me. The key here is to know when you have the right voice behind your works. How would you feel if you went to the Symphony and heard less than 3 minutes of wonderful music because the next two hours was all horns flashing and squeaking flutes. And then the conductor turned and took a bow saying "sorry we botched up everything, but three minutes were worth your time". Sorry, Im still not buy-ING this.
John Ferrie

From: Joyce Barker 6/13/12 -- Jun 13, 2012

I'm so glad to learn something new. It has never occured to me to crop a painting that didn't work. I'm sure I've got something that could be improved by down sizing. I hate the idea of leaving dull work stuck in the closet. It will be a challenge to do for my "Bucket List".

From: Rick Rotante -- Jun 14, 2012

Being a prolific painter I end up with lots of work. Some pieces weren't necessarily intended to be mounted and framed. Over time with fresh eyes you notice some have a chance if reconfigured. I've taken works that were years old but never finished and added backgrounds, repainted clothing, dressed nudes and cut down works. Most times with great success. It happens to many artist that after painting a work, there is still some unknown thing missing. I find it better to store it in a corner for future examination. Some still, after a few years, need burning while some have been refurbished and sold.

From: Ron Wilson, -- Jun 14, 2012

This is just a simple response to your 'downsizing" post. I know it, and I've done it in the past, but your comment gave me "permission" and encouragement to cut down a 16x20 to a 12x16 of a St.Charles Lane scene neighbouring Ross Bay cemetery without losing anything! In fact, I think I've gained crunch value. Victoria, BC

From: Gail Mason -- Jun 14, 2012

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your twice weekly letter. i look forward to the insight and perspective you share, and the topics often lead to conversations about them with artist friends.
i like the downsizing idea - i can see the value of it, and will turn to previous paintings that haven't worked with a new eye.

From: Faith -- Jun 14, 2012

I'm back here in time to react to John's last comment on my comment on his comment!
Dear John!
Of course, any conductor worth his fee can hear "flat" notes, but in fact all is lost if the perpetrator can't. He will be fired in all probability (a lot of orchestral players go deaf early because of the constant noise levels they have to endure - but hang on to their jobs). If the concert performance is bad, the MD has to answer for it, but it could be that the the instruments are affected by climactic conditions, the light is bad, etc. Who knows? You can't go back on live performances, however bad they are. You can't scrap the past, but you can scrap or even rescue future art exhibits.
Painters don't normally get fired for their work (maybe for other reasons). This is due to the fact that if he says his work is art, it IS art, however dreadful it is.
The difference between live music and live art is that there is no such thing as live art, unless we're talking about live demos. I've experienced many live music performances of all sorts, particularly recitals, where you have to say the performer made a good job of this or that piece, but the rest was pretty awful. You can only say that after a performance.
In contrast, a painter doesn't need to wait for the vernissage to find out if his work is good. If he says it's good, it IS to all intents and purposes up to standard. When I go to an art show see the stuff hanging there - some or all of which I like - and know that what is there has been blessed by the artist (painter in this case) who is either satisfied or has maybe run out of time and chopped a few old works up. Who knows? I'm certainly that most of us have stood in front of artworks and wondered why they are as they are, without being able to change anything about them. Why didn't the painter do this or that to improve it? He may have been waiting for Bob's next letter after this one - what a splendid follow-up.
Claiming that an artist who makes critical decisions concerning his work - and even goes the whole hog to rescue it for whatever pzurpose - is incompetent is, in my view, too drastic and misleading. Artists are fragile creature at any level of competence. They need help and encouragment, and the courage to stand back and make valuable decisions about their own work, even if that entails chopping them up. The main thing is surely that the final "exhibit" is satisfying, whatever the artist has done to achieve this. What you see as an exhibit is what the artist wants you to see. Whatever he wants to conceal will be concealed.

From: Janet Badger -- Jun 15, 2012

Seems to me this is about recycling, which is what we're all encouraged to do. The argument is whether going back to recycle failed art is worth an artist's time. Perhaps cutting up a piece is a learning experience that makes it worth doing. Or would making a new work of art be time better spent? Your choice.

From: Leroy Leong -- Jun 15, 2012

Using a couple of Britannicas (or Amercanas) is a good idea. All that knowledge pressing down on the art gives it a degree of "gravitas."

From: Pat in New Mexico -- Jun 15, 2012

One of the best art teachers I've ever had was very helpful when giving a critique... he would first point out the good things and then point out things that would improve the work or help me in the future with new works. I learned more from his classroom crituques than from most of the theory and live demos....

From: Michael Epp -- Jun 15, 2012

"A well-composed painting is half done." -- Pierre Bonnard

"A badly-composed painting is two paintings in one!" -- Michael Epp

From: LeeAnn -- Jun 15, 2012

Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much. For years I've thought I was cheating when I did that.

From: Margaret Stone -- Jun 15, 2012

I have been painting for a lot of years, now in acrylic. I have never cut down a work hoping for some kind of compositional or other resolution salvage. For me, the painting works as a whole or it doesn't. If so it goes out into the world. If not, it gets a coat of gesso. Simple.

From: Alex Nodopaka -- Jun 15, 2012

This is a reaction to Jan Yatsko post of Jun 12, 2012

What a wonderful idea to leave traces of your artistic presence. As a matter of fact I do the same with my poetry... in a small format & a note: This is not trash please absorb it in a proper manner.

From: Alex Nodopaka -- Jun 15, 2012

In response to Steve Day -- Jun 12, 2012

May I suggest you recompose the sgards into neat piles or compositions for photographic purposes & call them Akashic Records of Broken Might've Been Masterpieces

From: Alex Nodopaka -- Jun 15, 2012

In response to Janet Badger -- Jun 15, 2012

It's not a matter of recycling. Recycling is to decompose while this article is about recomposing. Cutting 'away' excesses is training the eye.

From: Alex Nodopaka -- Jun 15, 2012

In response to Leroy Leong -- Jun 15, 2012

I suspect with that philosophy the world will become flatter... now don't flatter yourself as this has to do with removing the fat from the flat artwork.

From: Alex Nodopaka -- Jun 15, 2012

In response to Laurel McBrine -- Jun 12, 2012

Well, I use my sculptures as door stops as well but with your suggestion I'll step on Robert Genn's book & my knowledge of art will be that much taller. This is not about upmanship... lol

From: Susan -- Jun 15, 2012

Having cropped off the left eighth of a watercolour landscape for me, the framer asked if she could keep it... I signed it and she framed it and has a better painting than the larger one I kept.

From: Jan Ross -- Jun 16, 2012

It's interesting to read the pros and cons expressed here. However, I have had watercolor paintings that have been cropped to be winners in many juried shows. Not that this is proof positive that cutting down an original piece is a good idea, but worth considering if a piece just doesn't feel right when you complete it. I must admit, if I worked on canvas or board, I'd be less likely to take the time and effort to do this.

From: Judy -- Jul 01, 2012

I need to enlarge a 10"x10" cropped oil sketch of clumps of apples nestled deep within an apple tree. How will this read at 40"x40"? My concern is that enlarged 8" diameter apples and 12" leaves will look grotesque! Yikes, please offer your experience and tips. Merci, Judy






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