Robert Genn

April 28, 2009

Dear Rodney,

On Friday, Paul Caruana of Valletta, Malta, wrote, "I'm tempted to do 
another painting of a watercolour I recently sold, this time in oils. 
Would I be cheating the buyer? I'd like to do it just the same as the 
watercolour as far as composition and colour scheme are concerned. 
I've considered changing things around but I think it might lose the 
impact if I did."

Thanks, Paul. Evolved collectors know that artists refine from one 
painting to the next and frequently redevelop work from an exemplary 
one. Further, there's the tradition of the watercolour sketch and 
the final oil. Resurrection is part of our game, but it can be a 
tricky wicket. 

Artists often notice a slippage of quality or loss of focus when they 
repeat. Here are a few thoughts:

Repeated works should be of a different size, preferably larger.

Repeated works often work out better in a different medium.

When going from smaller to larger, do the same with your tools.

See the "big picture" in the small one and don't fiddle the big.

Avoid the boredom of back-to-back repeats--let some time pass.

As you work, try to reinvent the second one as a new one. 

It's pretty difficult to copy a work stroke by stroke--just one of 
the reasons to change media. One of the most effective resurrection 
ploys is to lay in the general areas in a cursory way, take a good 
long look at the original, then face it against the wall and proceed 
to paint. If you don't have the original nearby, do the same with 
the reference or a digital image. This keeps your strokes honest and 
in the moment. In other words, you don't want to be constantly 
referring to the original to see if you got small elements the same. 

Even though your plan may be to repeat a previous success, you have to 
look at the project with new eyes. When you take this approach, you'll 
find the resurrected one may have a fresher spin than in its previous 
life. Always ask "What could be?" An artist's personal evolution is a 
playground of unending curiosity and abiding strength.

Best regards,


PS: "To copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads 
to sterility." (Pablo Picasso)

Esoterica: In the tradition of the field sketch and the final studio 
work, artists have an opportunity to take a fresh, real-time vision 
and enlarge it. While lots of examples of success with this 
process exist, many others show tightening and overstylization, 
and the big final turns out to be less than the little sketch. 
Winifred Trainor (1884-1962), confidante of the Canadian painter Tom 
Thomson (1877-1917), wrote in an unpublished journal, "His smaller 
sketches from nature rang truer than his large compositions, and he 
preferred them."