“How long did that take you to paint?” I am often asked this question. Even a painting done in public, during a specified time period, may take more time than it would seem. I have watched numerous painters working in public who begin the work in their studios, and merely take the work-in-progress with them to the gig and paint a little while there. Usually, the piece is not yet complete when the event is over, so the painting is then taken back to the studio to finish.
While I do prepare a canvas or board ahead of time, usually with many layers of textured paint, I always aim to finish each piece during the allotted time, so that the audience has the opportunity to see the finished work. Sometimes, someone wants to purchase the finished product, and this usually works out just fine for me. Occasionally, this is not the result. Sometimes, the painting needs just a bit more time. At times, I step back from the picture I have created and see that standing so close has caused me to make an unpleasant drawing error. And, there are times when it’s worse than that.
A couple of weeks ago, I painted for a local holiday gathering. I began with an image of the 3 wise men, situated in a darkened landscape. The famous star was hanging expectantly in the night sky. It was lovely, just the way it was. But the plan was for me to turn the canvas (making it verticle) and then paint the Madonna and Child. I had a good reference and an hour of painting time, so I was optimistic. An hour is longer than I usually have, and I often have just half that amount, so I wasn’t worried.
Those of you who have performed on stage in any capacity know that things happen, things you do not expect, and “the show must go on!” The ladies were late wandering into the room and seating themselves, so the hostess wanted to delay the start of the program. It would be a shame for anyone to miss anything, right? I still wasn’t worried.
With only 45 minutes left to paint,I began. I had trouble pretty much the entire time. I could not seem to get the colors I wanted. The reference was too small, and the details were hard to interpret. Still, I thought I had done okay, and the painting was sold. Half of the money from the sale went to a charitible cause, so I was happy. Until I saw the photo later that day.
I realized that the drawing was not awesome; I felt terrible about having sold a piece that should have been better executed. I thought about contacting the new owner to see if I could take the painting back and “fix it up.” Yet, this is one of the reasons I charge much less for a painting I do on stage – I spend much less time on it, and it’s not the same kind of piece on which I spend days or weeks. It left me wondering if I should give up live painting altogether…
Fortunately, the season is busy, and I didn’t have time to ponder this too much. I was “back in the saddle” the next weekend. I had in mind to paint the night scene with the three kings again, but it just didn’t feel right. When the service began, I still didn’t know what I would do. A woman had talked with me just before the service, and had prayed that God would inspire me.
I began with a sort of glowing, round light, as from a street lamp. I was using a technique in which I use pieces of paper, adhering them to the canvas with paint, creating a nice texture. I began to afix triangular pieces, arranging them around the circle of light. It became a large star, and I liked the end result quite a bit. In fact, my husband also liked it, and it became our Christmas card for this year (sort of). We actually decided to make bookmarks to enclose with our annual holiday letters. We were really running short on time, so this was a way of simplifying. And, we thought some people would appreciate something they could use to mark a book.
Perhaps, in the near future, no one will send paper anything any more. But as long as paper cards are sent at Christmas time, I suppose we two artists will continue to send them. I’m happy that at least one of my Christmas paintings could bring a little cheer. If you are the owner of the other one, just send me a message if the drawing starts to bother you, and we can work something out. I can’t give you a refund, though. The money is already spent.