Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Old work

 Parisian Reds
8 x 10   oil on panel  Available on Etsy  $65

What do you do with old paintings that don't sell?  We all have them.  Usually they are pieces that were done when learning a technique or starting out on an artistic journey, they may even have had gallery space, but they never found the right connection with someone.  This one below, Single Red Female, is one of those pieces.  Its been shown in exhibitions, available online,  yada yada, but hasn't found its forever home.  Its on my hit list for removal. 

For me, I paint over pieces where possible, depending on the surface and medium and recycle them that way.  I may keep a photographic record - or not - depending on how painful the image seems to resonate with me.  But it is transformed into something new.  It may take elements of the original that are incorporated into a new piece or it may be totally obliterated and disguised.

Trotting out old pieces over and over for sale at reduced prices is a bit disrespectful for collectors who have bought from you at full price and tends to devalue your work.   The occasional studio sales is fine and we all have them, but not for old work that isn't the best, its for genuine unpredictable sales of usually small pieces that may not be gallery worthy but still quite beautiful for someone looking for an piece of original art.

The ultimate of course is destroying the piece. It eliminates it from view, it confirms that you have moved on in your art career and that nothing becomes too precious.  Fire is the all consuming and a little caveman-like method, but quite satisfying.  Simply tossing pieces out with the trash becomes fraught with danger as they could be 'rescued'.  And would you really want your rejects on display or worse still, resold without your knowledge perhaps even under a different name?  No, permanent destruction or disfigurement prior to trashing them is required to ensure you don't lose sleep at night (or potential revenue!).

How do you eliminate old work that doesn't sell?  Do you recycle, eliminate or pass it on?


Ernest Friedman-Hill said...

The best method for disposing of old work I've ever heard of is James Gurney's "Gallery Flambeau":

Jeanette Jobson said...

Indeed! A perfect ending for a painting gone wrong. :)

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

if i really want to destroy a piece its either put on the BBQ or shredded but i tend to keep as much as i can since most of my stuff is 2D it fits in containers under a bed :p

artbyrae said...

This is always a question. I have and probably will still in the future just paint over old paintings. Some of my best new paintings happen over best old paintings.

Maggie said...

I paint mostly in watercolor on #300 paper. My old pieces sit in my flat file until I get tired of them and cut them up and use the backs of the pages for studies. Or occasionally I'll stick them under a shower and scrub off the old painting, dry them, and use them for a new painting.


Katherine Harra said...

My 140# watercolor paper doesn't take much space either, when stacked under a bed. Some old paintings represent a moment in my artistic path that I like to remember. Those I keep quite a while. The ones that I'd rather NOT remember, I generally gesso over the painting someday and reuse the paper that way. If I actually discard the painting, I don't burn it - I prefer to tear it up fairly small and put it in the paper recycle bin. Isn't that "greener"? Maybe not.

Carolyn A Pappas said...

My parents once "rescued" something I threw out and they went off and spent $$$ to have it framed in a triple mat. I was furious!

Mark Lewis said...

Love this art. If any is for sale it can be listed free on
Thanks for the post.
Mark Lewis