Autumn '18

A failed painting

Sept 2014

A failed painting is often the foundation for a successful one.


Quite often it happens that, after starting to paint on a new canvas, I give up after a few sessions. Sometimes this particular canvas will be lying around the studio for a half-year or more afterward, and during that time I might give it a few more tries.  If I’m still not satisfied, the canvas disappears in the “work-in-progress” pile.  It is from this stock that I every now and again pick up a failed painting and ask myself if it still has a chance of being brought to a successful end result, and if I should therefore give it another shot.

Sometimes, when I discover a particular half-finished canvas after years of lying dormant, I immediately see the solution, knowing exactly what it will take to turn it into a good or even superb painting. Other times, I take a canvas from the stock that has no future, and I just paint over it, using a brush or a pallet knife, with no regrets. I figure that the old painting will offer a nice foundation for a new painting. At the very least, it can contribute a surface with a rich texture and random color fragments, adding surprising elements to the look and feel of the new composition.


There are a handful of possible reasons I sometimes don’t manage to bring a canvas to a fruitful solution. It often lies in the first concept or setup of the composition. I’ve tried, but it proves to be almost impossible to change a faulty composition for the better just by adding color. The “framework” must be good from the start.

Most of the time I have a pretty clear idea of the outcome I am striving for from the beginning. I determine the atmosphere I would like to capture, and if it should have a lot of texture or be flat and glossy. But sometimes along the way I diverge from my initial concept, and the composition gets lost in fragments. When this happens, it doesn’t hold together as it should, and there seems to be no solution for redirecting it to a successful closure.

What also happens quite often is that I start on a new canvas with great enthusiasm and inspiration, but as time goes on (because the fresh layers of oil paint have to dry for a week or more before I can add another layer, in order not to damage the underlying one) I simply lose interest in the painting all together!

Below I have shown a few examples of “failures” (left) that were turned into “successes” (right) to illustrate the above. When you click on the right paintings you enlarge the picture and might discover some texture from the former underlying painting showing through.


Have fun with this, and warm regards,


Lieuwe Kingma, Hilversum, Netherlands, September 2014


Orange Landscape, 2001


Still Life with Apples, 2006
Acrylic / oil on canvas, 70 x 80 cm


Provence, 1997


Fall in Provence III, 2007
Acrylic/ oil on canvas, 70 x 80 cm,
private collection, Stavanger, Norway



Tulips, 2003


Blue Still Life, 2009
Acrylic / oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Private collection


Orchard in the Snow, 2003


Orchard in the Snow, 2013
Acrylic / oil on canvas, 100 x 120 cm



Christine Davison

I enjoyed reading this! There are a lot of unfinished things in life. Some we build upon and others we cast aside. Either way, it is part of us.

Janette Howell

I'm still working on my perspective but from what I see,' Orchard in the Snow, 2003' must have suffered a terrible storm to leave the roots skyward?

Phyllis Shaw

A great metaphor for moving through our lives!

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