Sunday, May 21, 2006

Accidents are rarely happy

Yesterday there occurred one of those frustrating moments when I thought I had brought a painting to a satisfying conclusion only to notice a small splatter of white paint in the centre of a delicately toned part of the sky. It was only 2mm in diameter but once aware of its existence it attracted the eye like a magnet. Scraping away had no effect – acrylic paint is a tough stubborn substance.

David Cox the 19th Century watercolourist took comparable annoyances in his stride. He sometimes painted on sugar paper which had dark flecks in it. Asked by a lady admirer how he coped with these he replied; “Why madam I give them wings and they fly away.” In my painting the option of converting the splatter into a seagull would have caught the eye even more emphatically – that was not the best solution.

The offending splatter intruded in a light toned passage that had been painted by blending colours wet in wet directly on the canvas and there was no way that the effect of the blends could be easily matched. I mixed a slightly lighter near match and applied it as a thin line with a palette knife. The edges were softened with a sponge and the splatter disappeared behind a wisp of cloud.

Accidents when they occur in the early stages of a painting may have happy consequences; if they arise when the painting is almost finished they are potential disasters. Fortunately acrylic is a most forgiving medium.

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