Muffy Clark Gill Muted Swan, mixed media, 24 x 78.5 in
I always talk about my work being a series of “happy accidents”, but sometimes those accidents can turn into near calamities. Not every painting that I create turns out exactly the way I envision it.
I recently wanted to create a painting of a swan from a photograph that I had taken at Homosassa Springs State Park. This painting I wanted to create as a Diptych (or two panel painting ) that I visualized hanging on either side of a doorway so that the eye would look at the image and visually fill in the gap between the two panels.
I went through my usual process of redrawing a line image of the photograph onto the Habitae silk that I had stretched out on my larger Moyer Design Frame. I then started waxing and dying in each layer from light to dark to start to build up my colors. I then hit a roadblock: the black dyes that I had painted on did not get as black as I had wanted-in fact they had looked rather murky and lacked crispness. I kept working on different techniques to sharpen the black color. One which I learned from my friend, Kiranada Sterling Benjamin, was to paint over the black with red, let dry and dye again. That helped clean up that problem.
I finished the painting (or so I thought) by removing the wax and steaming the colors to set them. I then attached the two pieces of fabric (since I had just divided the painting in two) using Mod Podge (a form of white glue). I then sealed it with a topcoat of Golden GAC 100 medium. BIG MISTAKE! It looked great while applying, but immediately I noticed air bubbles forming on the surface of the panels. As the gel medium dried, the bubbles got larger and the whole painting looked horrible! I called Golden Paints for advice on what to do. Their tech support person suggested that I would have to remove the painting from the panels, clean off the offending product and mount all over again. Yikes!
It took me three days to loosen the panels with sprays of water to remove them from the canvas backing. It then took almost two weeks to physically scrape off the offending product with a plastic credit card scraper until I could get it looking half decent again. In the process the colors of the painting faded significantly and the fine details of the piece were almost bleached out. I thought the painting was a goner!
The faded left panel
The restoration in process
In the meantime I had taken pictures of the fabric panels before I mounted them and had put together an image from those photographs. Thanks goodness that I did! I was able to have a digital reproduction made of that image so that it matched how I had wanted the original painting. I then went back and embellished the two canvas panels with different painting techniques and additions to create a second painting. For a while, I thought that would become the final version of the painting.
Muffy Clark Gill, Swan Lake, 2014,mixed media, 24 x 78.5 in
I put the original painting aside while I tried to figure out where to go from there. I then decided to try fixing it again. This time I adhered the silk on the wrong side of the painting, as it had faded less, and adhered it to gray eco-felt as a backing. I then stretched the eco-felt over the canvas supports and remounted the pieces.
How was I going to save the image that remained? I went back to my arsenal of fabric marker pens and carefully redrew the outlines of every detail in the painting. This process took me almost another two weeks of work until I was satisfied with the result. I also had to use some fabric paint to even the level of color on both sections of the swan’s body so that the two panels would match. I finally had a painting that I felt was worthy of all of the time and labor I had put into it.
It goes to show that you can learn from your mistakes….I just don’t want to ever have that happen to me again!