What Do I Do With Old Art?

In the ideal world every creation that emerges from my brilliant mind is perfect, inspiring, exhibited widely and sold very quickly. Then there is reality, in between the perfect-enough, inspiring paintings (that are always fewer than any artist would like) are the rest. Studios and storage places full of mediocre paintings, half-finished works, stuff that what ok in the past but not reflective of your work now and the just paintings that just don’t work no matter how many times or different ways you look at it. So what do I do with these paintings?

Good paintings, just old

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Last Two Beachfronts

These are all over my home and in my families’ homes. Some I’ve grown so attached to that they are not for sale. The ones that are available for purchase are still on my website and through my Etsy shops. Even though what I’m making now looks different, having older works helps show my progression and range of abilities. I find this is helpful for collectors, especially since I take commissions.

Old paintings, smaller works

Again, many are still for sale on my Etsy shops. These are also easy to send to other shops or galleries. I had several pieces at Chick Shack Collectibles in North Carolina until their shop closed this year. I also will donate these when asked to by  charities or shows.

Parts of paintings or sketches that are good

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Enchanted Net
©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Enchanted Net

Many times I don’t like how a finished piece has turned out but I like portions of the composition. These frequently show up in my collage pieces. I have no problem cutting or tearing out a piece of a watercolor or acrylic canvas and integrating it into a new piece of work. Sometimes it is just a small sketch or study that isn’t enough on it’s own but works as a part of a larger artwork.

Artwork from classes or college (or even high school)

These are usually guided exercises, studies or copies of paintings. Some may be good, they are just not considered part of my ‘body of work.’ I do love looking at the history of my artistic development though. Recently, I was looking through a portfolio from college while prepping for my move. I was really inspired by some of my work I was doing from my imagination, inspired by mythology. I’ve kept a lot of my course work from college and some from high school. This artwork is currently in paper and leather portfolios but I plan to store this work archivally soon.

Just too old, but not terrible

©Charlotte B. DeMolay

This work is mostly from right after college. I did a lot of still-life and studies to keep developing my abilities. The paintings are not bad, just not exciting or representative of most of my work. I have given several of these to family members. The rest I plan to store these archivally with my old class work.

What do I mean by archivally? I am going to purchase acid-free boxes with reinforced corners. Inside the boxes I’ll separate artwork with acid-free paper.

Doesn’t Work For Me, whether old or new

©Charlotte B. DeMolay, Joy

My husband and I argue over this one. He thinks some of my work is still reflective of me and others will like it. I just get aggravated when I see a painting that didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. Joy is the best example. My husband says it is very ‘me’ and it hung openly in our home in Texas. It is sitting on a shelf in the basement in our home here in Virginia. I have several others that are stacked with it. What am I going to do?

Well, Joy may stay in limbo but I’ve decided to give myself permission to destroy some of these works that just don’t, well, work. The first was an oil painting that neither my husband nor I liked. I actually cut it up into pieces, very exhilarating!

Acrylic paintings are getting painted over. I’ve already coated a few with gesso to get back to a white canvas ‘look.’ Others I’m just starting right on top of. Fortunately, I love texture so the brush lines from the first painting just get incorporated into the texture of the second painting.

I still hold out hope that each and every one of the paintings I choose to keep in the public eye will be widely viewed and eventually sold. In the meantime, I’ll be taming the stacks of creative genius and creative duds!