Repose in Red, 18 x 14, oil on linen
Do you ever paint over old paintings? or do you always use fresh canvas? I get asked this question from time to time, and my answer is most of the time I like fresh canvas (oil primed linen) but sometimes I do paint over old paintings.
When a surface gets built up, it tends to get in my way if I'm trying to do an alla prima sort of thing. I want to have complete control over the calligraphic marks I make, and I rely on the canvas texture a lot to do that.
I also have a hard time if the surface has too much color / value activity because I can't judge my new strokes against irrelevant notes. They're just distracting.
Paint it all out first and make a uniform toned surface? Sure, I can do that, but if I'm going to do that, it's much easier and faster to just use new canvas. And new canvas has the predictable texture that I like.
Having said all that, I still do use old painted surfaces for new paintings, if I know the painting isn't going to be a traditional (in a general sense of the word) painting. If abstraction is what I'm after, I don't mind all the existing color and texture. The unpredictability and irrelevance of the context often spurs new ideas and I make decisions which wouldn't have even occurred to me otherwise.
The painting, Repose in Red is something I did a few weeks ago, and it's painted over an older painting. Actually, there're three paintings underneath this one. I think four is my limit - the texture become too pronounced after a while and I can't do what I need to do, even if I 'am doing this abstraction/process thang. I guess I can sand it down, but again, too much trouble.
Anyway, I like this one so I won't be painting it over.