Give a New Identity to an Unsold Painting!

Many of you might ‘gasp’ at the thought of taking an unsold painting out of the gallery and back into the studio to rework it.

But famous artists like Van Gogh and Wyeth, for example, recycled canvases by painting – actually painting over their earlier works. From time to time, that is exactly what I do – I like to give a new identity to an unsold painting!

…and here I go again! (Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge for detail.)


After the critique, I/we felt that “Peach-face Lovebirds on Peach Vase” was too sweet. So I murdered the little lovebirds and changed to a Cardinal pair, took out the daisies in exchange for peach blossoms, and a new name.

In my big still life show last year, “Peach Blossoms & Cardinals” almost sold. It had a hold on it, but then no one else showed an interest in the painting, so I brought it home. I decided that the birds were to light for the weight of the yellow vase. I also didn’t like the turquoise background – it was too strong.

© 2010 Lori McNee, “The Rainbow’s End”

Maybe ‘threes a charm’ because I lovethis painting! The colorful parrot gives the composition the right balance and color needed. The pose is strong and interesting. The grapes at the bottom of the painting anchor the piece, repeat the reds and make sense with the parrot. This painting is on its way to Gardner Colby Gallery in Florida – where it should find a happy home!

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:

  • Ask your kids, family members or friends for a ‘honest’ critique
    • don’t worry about your feelings at this point!
    • kids are sometimes the best critics – and brutally honest!
  • Hang the painting in a living-room or bedroom and see how it stands up against the furnishing, etc.
  • Take the painting out of the frame
  • Prop it up in the studio and study the composition and color
  • How is the technique?
  • How is the brushwork?
  • Can it be improved?
  • Ask yourself
    • Is the painting in the wrong Gallery of market place?
    • Is it the economy’s fault or the painting’s???

Some of you might be timid to try something like this and to the ‘purists’ out there, this many seem like ‘cheating’. But, this painting process has been used by many of the art masters before us.Robert Bateman, the most famous wildlife artist gave me some valuable advice (plus he taught me how to paint birds!).  Bob said, “Don’t let anything be too precious.”

I know from personal experience, that if we are not willing to experiment, take risks and let go, we will have a hard time growing as artists.

Let me know how this works for you! ~Lori


Check out these other interesting articles:

Save Money: Learn How to Gesso a Hardboard Panel for Painting

Painting with Acrylics, The Mystery Explained!

Water Soluble Oil Paints: Facts, Tips & Why I Use Them

How to Rework an Old Painting and Make it Sell!

2010-12-06T23:06:30+00:00January 15th, 2010|Fine Art Tips, General, How To Paint, Draw & More|9 Comments


  1. Miranda January 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Excellent advice, Lori! We should never be afraid to make changes, even after a piece is done. That little urging in the back of our minds is often right, and by ignoring it we could miss out on something new and exciting!

  2. Ellene Breedlove Davis March 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    What method do you use to revise the painting? Do you take the paint off the canvas, if so with what medium and do you just paint over the place you want to change?

    Thank you,

    Ellene Breedlove Davis

    • Lori McNee March 6, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      Hi Ellene. That is a good question and I should have addressed it in the article… Depending on what I am attempting to change, I use a few methods.

      Let’s say I am changing the bird – I often sand down the bird to lift the majority of the paint and smooth out the board. Then, I add a bit of re-touch varnish to the whole painting and then start the revisions. If I am changing the background color, no need to sand – I just start with retouch varnish and then get to the painting. But, the best way is to begin with any changes is to spray or paint a layer of retouch varnish over the whole painting no matter what i plan to do.

      Hope this helped! Lori

  3. Yvonne Branchflower March 13, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Do you ever make changes after permanently varnishing the painting? Or do you use retouch varnish as your final varnish?

    Thank you for your informative blogs.

    • Lori McNee March 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm

      Yvonne, that is a great question that I should have addressed in the post.

      I use retouch varnish on all my paintings because they usually sell before the 6 month waiting period. When I rework an older painting, it still has the layer of retouch which i add a new layer to before I get started…then after the reworked painting is dry to the touch, I add one final retouch layer and hope it sells!

      I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting this blog and sharing you thoughts.

      Have a great day-

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  6. James G Despain December 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I really love your post. Hope this blogpost will help other people. Sorry for the short review.

    • Lori McNee January 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks for taking time to comment, James!
      Lori 🙂

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