Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reworking - Dad & Cockleburr

There have been many paintings that have languished in my closet unfinished, because I just could not make them work. Some I just lost interest in, perhaps because some thing about them bothered me that I just could not see at that time. One such piece, a recent portrait of my dad, had an obnoxious background of cherry red to dark red in swirls and patches...what was I thinking! I was mostly pleased with how my dad and his horse Cockleburr turned out, but, just short of actually finishing this painting, I set it aside, unable to complete it.

This is after I had started changing the background. The actual color was much more red than this photo shows!

The background was actually the reason I did the painting. Yes, I wanted to do a portrait of my dad...I had been thinking of doing this one of him with his horse for a couple years, in fact, but, the main reason I finally started the painting was to explore a series of equine portraiture utilizing bright jewel-tone backgrounds. I thought this would be a good opportunity to do dad's painting and stay within the parameters of this series. I'd already done a few other horse paintings using bright blues, greens, and violets for the backgrounds that came out pretty nice...I just needed a good red next! So I did my dad in red. Hmmm. O.K. It took me a few months to just let it stew, still unfinished. I finally decided, that series parameters or not, that red background just had to go!

So, I decided it would have to be a full landscape background instead. I chose to use a scene from the area near to where we lived when we had our horses back in the early '70s; the Tularosa Basin between Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, and Tularosa, New Mexico. My dad was in the military then and we kept our horses at the base riding stable. We often rode out into the desert north of the base, and, later after dad retired, we lived in Tularosa to the northeast. This scene in the portrait places him in that general area north of Holloman AFB and shows Tularosa as a line of trees at the base of the mountain, Sierra Blanca on the far right side of the painting. Today, this same area is filled with pistacheo groves, so, this scene in my painting is actually a view into the past, circa 1972!

Creating is an ongoing process of learning to see so that we as artists can correct any errors and make our art perfect, or at least, as perfect as we can! Unfortunately, it takes time and practice to learn this and we don't always see those errors until the artwork has long been finished. I'm still not entirely happy with this painting of my Dad. It has come a long way from my first 'vision' of it, but, too much time has passed since beginning this portrait and all I see now are its faults. I feel the background is much better, but, now the overall painting is not quite there...again! There is much about this that I still like, enough not to trash it, or, attempt a major repainting. Therefore, as it sometime goes, this is one more painting that I may have to call done. Time to go on to the next project.

This is the final version.  Not a good photo as there is a lot of glare on the lower left.  I find it hard to get good images of larger paintings.  Here are some close-ups. 


  1. I remember you posting this painting on WC Kerry- quite some time ago when you first started changing the background! The finished version looks absolutely wonderful, you must be thrilled with it and glad you finally found the time and inclination to get it completed!

  2. Thankyou Danielle and Laura!

    Yes I did post this on WC but never showed the finished painting. I'll have to go dig that thread up and finish it. I am happy with this. The background is a major improvement over that tacky red I had on it.