During our Members’ Critique Webinar last Saturday, we discussed updating or reworking older oil paintings. The subject was on the top of my mind because I’ve been revisiting old paintings lately. While listening to the Realism Live Convention I heard Daniel Sprick say “there’s no expiration date on reworking oil paintings – sometimes years later.”

Daniel Sprick during the Realism Live Painting Conference

Daniel Sprick during the Realism Live Painting Conference

I agree! The painting Sunday Drive was finished in 2014 and shipped off to the Broadmoor Gallery where it sat for a couple of years. Getting the painting back was bittersweet. It’s always nice to sell a piece, but I was happy for the chance to work on it again.

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Even though it had some weak areas, it was a painting I personally loved. So, I was excited to see what more I could do with texture (there’s a great blog post about texture here) and color while hopefully not losing the essence of what I loved about the painting.

Here’s the reference photo for the painting:

The reference photo for the oil painting Sunday Drive by Bill Inman

The reference photo for the oil painting Sunday Drive by Bill Inman

What I loved in the photo were the twisted, contrasting trees, the textures, and the feeling of driving or walking through a tree-lined road. What I didn’t like was the boring pavement color taking up so much space in the composition. So, I changed the composition and focused on those things I found intriguing.

Here’s what the painting looked like when I got it back from the gallery a year ago:

The oil painting Sunday Drive by Bill Inman before reworking it

Sunday Drive before reworking it

What I loved in the painting were the foliage and tree trunk textures and contrasts.

What I didn’t paint well was the road – it didn’t feel like it fit in with everything around it and the lines were too obvious. I also felt I could push shadow and light in the mass of foliage much more effectively. There was too much sameness from left to right and top to bottom through the middle of the painting.

That sameness caused the dark twisting tree to stand out more than it should. Also, the trees on the right created a barrier to the rest of the painting because they were overly dominant in size, contrast, and interest.

Here is what the painting looks like now:

The oil painting Sunday Drive 24x18 by Bill Inman after reworking it

Sunday Drive 24×18 by Bill Inman after reworking it

The trees on the right have been integrated into the rest of the painting with more foliage. The big tree on the right near the road was broken up into two distinct trees, with one being pushed to the other side of the road. I did that with the idea that it would help move the viewer into and through the painting.

A detail of trees from the reworked painting Sunday Drive by Bill Inman

Detail of trees from reworked Sunday Drive

The field in the background was modified with light ochres and lavenders to subdue the color so it would pull the viewer into the painting while not popping forward or distracting from the areas around it. I added a lot of colors into the road from the surrounding plants to help the road feel like it belonged.

Detail of sky and dark greens from reworked Sunday Drive

Detail of sky and dark greens from reworked Sunday Drive

The sky was darkened with more saturated Ultramarine and Manganese Blues, gradually shifting from darker reddish-blue to lighter yellowish turquoise blue as it moved down.

Detail of Fall foliage colors and textures from the oil painting Sunday Drive by Bill Inman

Detail of Fall foliage colors and textures from the oil painting Sunday Drive

Light and shadow, textures, and warm and cool colors were greatly enhanced throughout the painting.

This painting is now one of my favorites. It took a while to get there, but fortunately, it’s not a race. Each painting is its own unique puzzle and sometimes it takes years to develop each of the pieces, so they feel ‘right’.

Tell me about your experiences in reworking older oil paintings.