I guess that most of the artists have the feeling, sometimes, of not being completely satisfied with the finished painting, and want to do it all over again. The feeling that the painting has much more to offer in terms of exploring the hidden possibilities of the composition, the color balance or the emotional content, arises to the surface in my work, from time to time. I have done the new versions of the paintings I haven’t been completely satisfied with a few times in the past. Getting inspired by one of your previous paintings, and doing it again, in a slightly different way, is quite different from copying your own painting because you are approached by an art collector who wants to buy exactly the same painting you have sold to somebody else, and asks you to do the copy of that particular composition for his collection. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the client pays adequately.
Although an interesting and relatively easy way of refilling one’s piggy bank, one should not get too excited about making many copies of one’s own paintings just for the sake of money. If done too often, It could eventually turn against you, damaging the credibility of your artistic oeuvre. One of my artistic idols and “teachers” suffered that kind of destiny, although he was a great master of painting métier and produced a great number of brilliant paintings. In fact he did not suffer personally, because he was famous and quite a rich artist, but his artistic oeuvre did suffer to a certain degree. More about him in a future post. See his painting below – he did this one as a student at the art academy in Vienna in the 19th century. He was 22 years old when he painted this picture.
|Paja Jovanovic, Wounded Montenegrin, 1882, Oil on canvas, 114 x 186 cm.|
However, trying to improve a previously painted picture, or wanting to further explore the possibilities of the particular composition in question, could easily be combined with a new commission.
In 1998/’99 I illustrated the book, “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” for a publisher from Taiwan. One of the 33 illustrations I did for this project depicted Guinevere (you know - the lovely but unfaithful wife of King Arthur ) sitting by the window and waiting to be rescued by Lancelot, her most beloved hero.
Although I regarded this little painting as one of the most interesting from the whole book, upon the picture’s completion I was left with a feeling of latent dissatisfaction. I thought that the composition potentially offered much more than I was able to show in the finished illustration. In this particular case, I had a tight deadline, and therefore I was not able to spend much time on the illustration. In order to meet these deadlines, I worked frantically on this book project 6 days a week, day and night, for 6 months. As a consequence I was struck by a severe back pain and was forced to stop working for a week. I was not able to sit down, could not lay down or stand without experiencing a terrible pain. The doctor said that he could do nothing to help me, and suggested to be brave and wait for it to pass. After a week of “rest”, and still suffering from the back pain, I proceeded with the work on the book. And because I could not sit on the chair for longer than 15 minutes, I often had to kneel down in front of my working table for another 15 to 30 minutes in order to go on with painting (I placed a piece of soft-cardboard under my knees to make this unusual working position a bit more comfortable. Then when the pain would became too disturbing I would sit on the chair again, and paint further for another 15 minutes. This highly unpleasant situation lasted for about two weeks. However, I managed to meet the deadlines, but just as I finished and delivered the illustrations to the publisher, the economic crisis in Asia broke out and the publication of the book was postponed for 3 years. Who says that the life of an artist is boring and without any adventures…?
At the beginning of 2010 I had the opportunity to paint the mentioned composition once again, when a Belgian collector asked me to make a painting of Guinevere. I wrestled for a while with a few ideas for the new composition, but none of them seemed to work out. Then I remembered the illustration from the King Arthur book, and recalled my feeling of discontent about it. I introduced some changes to the old composition and painted a new Guinevere picture. The client was satisfied with the painting, and I was satisfied because I took the opportunity to improve the old picture. At least I think I improved it, although I am perfectly happy if somebody prefers the old version. Despite the intentions to improve a certain composition and in spite of the effort, one sometimes does not get further then just making a different thing. Not every “improvement” is the improvement, I guess.
|Guinevere, 2010, Oil on wooden board|