Thursday, February 2, 2012


by Donato
I'm moving through some changes,  I'll never be the same.

Change is a good thing, especially when improves a painting.  I am part of a small and wonderful group of talented artists and professionals with which, through the use of email, we share projects, ideas, business dialog, criticism and most importantly, ART!  One of the cherished aspects of this email group is the posting of works in progress, whether they be at the beginning in the rough sketch phase, half way into the color final, or posted as 'finished' with a little wriggle room left for feedback and critical evaluation.

I have shared all forms of painting stages with my friends, and thought I would post a few examples of how changes have drastically improved an image after posting what I thought was a 'finished' work.

As I respect all of the artists within this group, I value and listen carefully to all they have to say including ideas I think could enhance my image as well as those that I disagree with - for all the comments have a context within which they could be seriously justified in pushing my painting towards.

Many times after spending weeks on a painting, I am hesitant to undertake another round of reworking.   But given enough distance from the act of creation, and a little time to distill the comments, I invariably find that the changes only make the work better, and thus are happy to implement them.

Search for Mother
48" x 36" 
Oil on panel

'Search for Mother' has gone through a series of changes. Just when I think I am done, a few days pass and/or I post the work to the group, and a fresh set of eyes points out a way to improve the work.

The first image is the painting in progress, the mermaid, child and rocks near completion.

After sharing online with my group, I revisited the child's legs to better clarify the anatomy and add a weight of gravity and intent to shift momentum of the child into one attempting to halt, which played into the theme of the work better.

The final stage was produced after being away from the painting for ~ 5 months and receiving further feedback from another artist and a gallery director to 'obscure the mermaid more'.  I reworked the raking sunlight, surf at the man's feet, and obviously buried the mermaid beneath a mound of seaweed.  All which further enhances the work.  For now the painting is 'finished' until it comes back into the studio again!

In the beginning of this process, I undertook a small study of the mermaid to get a feel for the color and contrasts I was chasing after in my minds eye.  While the results were successful, an addition of a small slash of light from one of my fellow online buddies (Jon Foster) added the killer moment to the scene which took the work up another notch.

So often as we work upon a painting, too many issues are flutter before our eyes - rendering, anatomy, edge control, color balances, etc- obscuring what should be plainly obvious as an improvement.  Yet just as often, an extra set of eyes and mind can open the path to another way of tackling the work which brings about its holistic completion.

I wish you all success in this journey to find a contentful resolution to your work!


  1. Wow, cool! Especially love how the addition of seaweed completey changed the main focus away from her and to the man & child. We should see them and only discover the mermaid after. Excellent work!

    If only such profound changes weren't so darn scary to do! ;-)

  2. This is amazing! I've always loved the way you portray mermaids. You can always tell that you've thought about how a real mermaid might look. I appreciate you sharing this; starting over or goin back into a painting to try and change something is one of the scariest things I know of as an artist. I've been working on a piece for over a month now and I know something needs to change and I almost dread figuring it out cause then I'm going to have to go back in and figure out how to fix it without messing up what I already have. Anyway, all that to say, thank you for sharing this, you've encouraged me with my own work. Beautiful and amazing, again! Thanks!

  3. What a fantastic post. Thanks so much for sharing Donato! I love seeing the transition! You amaze and blow my mind as always.

    -J :D

  4. Before I was finished reading I thought that the highlight on her forehead was genius:)
    Wonderful painting!

  5. Beautiful composition, Oh and the legs of the little girl, the positioning on the final piece...WOW! I keep going back to them, they just tell the whole movement and what will happen when the older guy makes another step forward...Enough clarity...Thanks so much for sharing, very insightful post!

  6. Thank you for your honest sharing of process, it is heartening to the process of development an artist must take to persevere as an artist...thank you once again!

  7. I like both versions. I think there's a strong case for starting completely afresh on new paintings rather than dramatically reworking existing pieces way down the line, risking losing certain qualities in the process, (the elegant lines of a mermaid's tail, for instance). If you're making a change to correct an actual fault or mistake, say in perspective or anatomy, I think that's valid. If you're doing it to change the character of the work or to shift the focus, that's more questionable.

  8. Fascinating as always. A wonderful idea having a group to bounce your stuff around and get critiqued. Keep up the good work.

  9. quite wonderful! thanks for sharing!

  10. Wow that little study is just gorgeous.

  11. Perpetual Change....
    Besides looking at your wonderful paintings, I also enjoy listening to Yes while drawing or painting. Even though it's fairly complex it manages to get me in the right mood everytime.


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