Detail from "The Gross Clinic" by the 19th century American painter Thomas Eakins.
The entire painting may be viewed below the fold, but I warn you, it ain't for the faint of heart...
Right. How do you revive a painting when it appears to have died on the easel? That does sound like an interesting topic because I can think of many reasons for why it would happen. I'll see if I can work it into the book somewhere. Maybe doing so will offer a fresh perspective.
Of course it would be tempting to say "The best way to keep your paintings from going horribly wrong is to read my upcoming book." But that would be too self-serving and not very honest. I find myself crashing and burning all the time too. So maybe I'll add a chapter on how to salvage a painting, and when to accept your masterpiece is dead on arrival. I'll even use a couple of my own paintings as examples. I'll take a few of the bombs buried in the racks and we'll see if they can be resurrected. I'll be sure to shoot a few before and after shots, like a TV beauty make-over.
However, I should admit right from the start my usual way to deal with a failed painting is to abandon it and move on. It is possible to look at your failures and learn from them but converting a failure into a success is unlikely. The back of my painting racks are filled with train wrecks. You just don't get to see them. I've learned from first-hand experience if you keep poking at one it is more likely to become a pit of quicksand than not. You might think you are digging yourself out but in truth you are still sinking. Better to start a new train wreck, er... another masterpiece.
Anyone else out there like to offer more suggestions? They've all been good. I now have a folder set up to receive all the emails coming in so fire some more at me by clicking here.
And here is the painting "The Gross Clinic" in its entirety. Click on it if you want to see it enlarged. It's one of Thomas Eakins' masterpieces. But think twice before zooming into the patient because it is kind of gross. Eakins painted it from life.