Claude Monet once said to Paul Durand-Ruel, I took your advice and managed to make some quite good things out of paintings I considered irredeemable.”

Do you ever have an older painting that just sits around in a gallery and never sells? The painting might go out ‘on approval’ or it’s been bounced around between your other galleries, but can’t seem to find a new home. This scenario happens to me from time to time however, I have learned how to re-work an old painting and make it sell.
First of all I want to say, sometimes a really great painting takes more than a year to sell and this happens to all of us. Often the painting might be in the wrong gallery or the market is too soft in your area, etc. But, sometimes the problem might be with the painting. And when this happens to me I get ruthless! I am known for ‘whiting out’ or gessoing over a ‘good painting’ because my gut tells me it just isn’t good enough.
It must be that thrifty Scottish blood that runs through my veins, but I don’t like to ‘waste’ a good canvas, board, paints or a frame on an unsold painting. I am a problem solver and if a basically good painting has not found an owner within a year, I like to take it home for an evaluation. Here’s what I do.

  • Take the painting out of the frame
  • Prop it up in my studio and study the composition and color
  • How is the technique?
  • How is the brushwork?
  • Can it be improved?

If I can solve any of the above questions, then I get out my paints and start resuscitating that old painting. Some of you might ‘gasp’ at the thought of reworking a finished painting. It might seem like ‘cheating’ or you may even be scared of ruining the original. But, this process has been used by most of the art masters before us. Nothing is too precious, and what have you got to lose anyway? At the very least, this is a great learning process that will help you with your next fresh painting.
Just the other day, I revived an unsold still life painting and I am much happier with the new results.


The original painting, “Hummingbird & Green Vase” was an okay painting, but upon evaluation I knew it could be better. I decided that although the yellow/orange background was the natural compliment to the greenish/blue vase, the whole temperature of the painting was too ‘hot’.  Also, I felt the painting was too austere.

step-1 step-2

  1. First, I sanded the hummingbird and twigs down a bit and used a thin layer of retouch varnish over the whole surface of the painting.
  2. Next, I chose to cool the background using just a dash of phthalo blue (very powerful pigment) mixed with Naples yellow and cadmium orange to neutralize the blue.
  3. I then decided to add more variation to the bare composition and drew in an orchid.
  4. I went back around the newly painted orchid with the cool background color to meld it all together and give the painting a feeling of atmosphere, but leaving a portion of the original background near the top.
  5. I reworked the hummingbird and gave him more vibrancy.
  6. Then at the last minute, I decided to open the orchids. Wow, what a difference! I am pleased with the results.


I even renamed the reworked painting, “Hummingbird & Orchids.”  This  is much stronger now than the original underpainting.
Let me know if you revive an old painting!  Lori
P.S. It sold!
Below are some more articles you might like:
Helpful Ways to Negotiate and Set Your Art Prices 
How NOT to Clean an Oil Painting
How to Stage Your First Art Exhibition
5 Savvy Tips for Selling Your Art
Create Texture & Application in Paint using Yin/Yang

Commissioned Art – Tips to make it a Success!
10 Tips to Bring Visitors to Your Art Fair Booth or Open Studio
7 Creative Ways to Approach an Art Gallery for Representation
Visual Artist’s Challenge II – Balancing Self Promotion & Gallery Representation
Commissioned Art – Tips to make it a Success!
Create a Powerful Portfolio

Have fun and I hope to meet you on Twitter and Facebook and Google Plus !!! ~Lori (If you want to see what I paint, please check out my paintings)


Privacy Preference Center