You Again?! Thoughts on Revisiting a Subject
by Karen Saunders
Sometimes you just have to paint something again… and again… and again! If you’ve never revisited a subject and repainted it, I’m going to encourage you to do just that. There are so many things to be learned from the experience.
"Sunset Storm" 18"x 24"
For me, the thing I have painted the most times is my neighbor's barn. Since it overlooks my studio, I see it every single day in all kinds of light and weather. It also has an interesting facade where they have patched it up over the years. I *might* be obsessed. It’s like an interesting friend, one that imparts some new wisdom each time you see them. As you’ll see, there are an endless number of ways of looking at the same thing!
One neat thing about using the same subject for a number of paintings is that you can find all sorts of ways to keep it fresh. You’ll notice, with the exception of the piece with the garden in the foreground, that my chief inspiration for painting the barn is usually how it relates to the sky. The sun
sets right behind it, so it's pretty easy to catch drama in the scene. I also really love the way the clouds seem to stack up in the sky behind the barn. These paintings span a few years (though they aren’t presented in any particular order here) and represent a continuum of skill development for me. Out of seven paintings, the techniques and colors used for the sky aren’t the same in any of them. I think there is something that gives you the freedom to try new things on multiple paintings where the anchoring element stays the same.
Though each painting is distinctly different in focal point and mood, one device that I used in five of the seven is a low horizon line. This is definitely a favorite element for me as it gives maximum space to play around with the clouds and sky. Since the sky is ever changing, this
"Barn 1" 8" x 10"
scene can be revisited many times over! The time I used the high horizon line, it allowed for the garden beds in front of the barn to become the focal point. I definitely recommend thinking through where you are placing your horizon line and why. Changing it up is a great way to experiment!
Another observable composition element is the changing position of the barn. It definitely creates variety in this set of paintings. Viewed from straight on, a ¾ turn, from the right, from the left, and from higher and lower on the hill, the building has a different presence each time. Artist license is also at work here, as I have relocated or completely removed certain items in each composition. I never feel I have to leave everything
"Barn at Sunset" 24" x 18"
that is there in life in a painting. Think about what made you want to paint a scene in the first place- then eliminate as many other elements as you can and still tell the story. There is no need to feel tied to anything that distracts from your goals for a painting. Even without all the same details, it's clear that this is the same barn.
"Pole Beans in the Morning" 10"x 8"
Now that I’ve taken some time to look at these paintings all together, I find myself looking forward to when the mood to revisit this scene in some new way will strike again!
*I would love to hear your thoughts on revisiting a subject multiple times. If you have ever tried this, how did it go? Do you have a favorite from my little collection of neighbor’s barn paintings? If so, tell me which one and why! Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on having subjects that are old friends. Be sure to add your comments below!*