Oh The drama!

Not really, but today I’m posting about a no-no. Or at least, it’s commonly described as a no-no.
I’m talking about re-working an old piece.
Truthfully, I’m often tempted to re-work old pieces. Some of them are hanging in my house (some of them are even hanging in OTHER people’s houses!); but mostly, they are rolled up and hidden away in the dark recesses of my studio, or in cupboards or storage units.

Just before Christmas however, (on the 23rd, to be precise!), one of my collectors (they have purchased 5 pieces so far including a large commissioned piece); wrote me and asked if I had something approximately X size in X price range. I told them that unfortunately, no, I didn’t. I had some bigger pieces that would be quite a bit more.  
They wrote back and said more would be okay because it was for their sister and they didn’t mind spending more. So, I sent a few pics of unsold work, but nothing appealed. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) literally all of the work I have been doing the last four years has been commission only, so I didn’t have anything unsold.
But then I remembered that I DID have a piece tucked away that I had been wanting to hang in our house, but wanted to fix it up a bit before I did, despite the fact that it had been exhibited in the condition it was currently in.
I sent the collector a pic, told them the size and price, and they bought it. I explained that because it was the 23rd, I wouldn’t have time to go to FedEx until the 27th, and would that be okay.
It was.
So I dug it out of the bin it had been in (mounted on corrugated cardboard with double sided tape and in a plastic sleeve) and began to prepare a background for proper mounting - I chose to do so on a plain black painted canvas.
As I prepared the canvas, and waited for the gesso to dry, I kept looking at the piece, thinking “It really would be improved if I would just added such and such”
“It really would look better if I just filled in that a little.”
It really would… and before I knew it, it was in my hands and I was stitching. *le gasp!*

So, as you can see, I added some winter grass, I filled out the snow on the ground a bit with more French knots and beads, and the big problem - that evergreen that seemed to be floating in mid air, got lengthened and brought down to a more appropriate height.
Then I added another evergreen to the right of it. If I’d had more time, I would have added a bit of another peeking out, but I ran out of time and had to ship it.
I think it looks much better, and now I want to re-work ALL of my old work that I don’t like.
I know that people say you should keep the old work as it is, as a record; but who is really going to care, but me? Nobody is ever going to be doing a retrospective of my work, future scholars aren’t going to study it and write papers about how it’s changed as I grew more exposed to so and so, or took a such and thus course.
And then I might actually enjoy my work, and it wouldn’t be shoved in some bin in the back of a closet.
What are your thoughts on improving old work?
Yay, or nay? 

Kit Lang


  1. I think if you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you should go ahead and do it! Most of my old work I like 'as is' but 'never say never'. And if it helps to move it out of your place to a new home? Definitely go for it!

    1. I have had no compunction in the past of changing unfinished work even if it's been years since I last handled it; but finished never. However, getting it to a new home is great motivation! :)

  2. I'd say go with your instinct. This piece was definitely improved with the continuation of work. I actually didn't even see the tree in the first photo. It looks amazing now. I love your signature rabbit (sometimes cardinal). Great job!!!!!

    1. Thanks Beth. This piece was actually the first appearance of my "signature" hare! :)

  3. I loved BOTH before and after! Really pretty. I tend to like color, so the additional green added to the piece. Wonderful work you do. Beautiful.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words, Dot! :)

  4. I don't believe that rule. I'm pretty sure "Famous Painters" reworked old pieces, whether revising, or completely scraping off! I don't think i've ever re-worked a *finished* piece, but there are plenty of UFO's that went in a different direction after sitting for awhile. If you're comfortable changing your art, and feel/know that it's better for it, damn the rules and the nay-sayers!