I recently received this question from an artist:
When is it okay to pull a painting from its stretcher with the intent of reusing the support? Some friends and I are having a disagreement over this.
Good question Jackie – I knew an artist who would give a painting a year and if it hadn’t sold he would reuse the materials (those that he didn’t smash and jump up and down on – this was a very temperamental artist!). That’s extreme. Sometimes it can take a few years for a piece to find the right home. We just sold a piece for an artist that he created 4-5 years ago.
I guess if you feel that the stretchers are worth more than the painting they’re supporting, you know it’s time to switch it up.
What do you think?
How long do you give a painting before you restretch or rework? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. We moderate comments to keep out spam, so it may take a few hours for your comment to appear.
I have a thought, and another question to add to it: First, if a painting that hasn’t sold is part of a series, and the series still looks solid after some of the pieces have sold, I will continue to exhibit them for up to three years. I find most venues don’t want work much older than that; at least not unless you are nationally renowned! Second – there are times when a painting hasn’t sold and it is my favorite; and in a way I’m delighted because I get to hang it in my own house. Third – If I really do get why it hasn’t sold… I paint over it. Some of my best sellers and favorite paintings have an entire layer underneath that provides texture and depth, sometimes amazingly in sync with the new layer without even trying – especially with my abstracts. Here’s my question Jason: How do you feel about having an open studio and discounting older works? I’m considering doing this now, and the paintings I want to sell cover the entire spectrum of age, medium and style, from representational to subjective, oil to acrylic to mixed media – some dating back as far as 10 years ago. Would love to hear your thoughts!
In my previous post – the range is from representational to abstract 🙂
If you need the stretcher that bad.. then carefully take it off.
The artwork is still an inventory piece and can be shipped much easier.
Regarding /Re-work the same artwork…. if you have not gone public with the piece of art and you find it calling out to you, then i believe the little voice you are hearing could be $ knock on the door – so put it in… rework it. But wait 15 to 30 days to go public. ( and to be sure that little voice stops.)
If you really need the support, then re-use it, but don’t toss the painting. You might see it differently in a year or so and decide to re-stretch it. I like to look back at older work now and then to see my progress, so I don’t throw anything out.
I just “went over” a four year-old painting that didn’t sell, and one that I hadn’t ever felt comfortable with. I really like what happened.
But, having read the above comments, I might think a little longer next time.
I keep them. A gallery owner came to my house and saw 2 paintings collecting dust- she took them, and a week later they sold for 3 grand each, and the customer even spent freight money to send one to her condo in England ( they were 4 ft by 3 ft, at least). Lesson learned. Keep everything, LOL.
I agree with Marissa. A lot depends on the type of work you do. I am not a mainstream artist ( whimsical folk art story telling ) and I have a smaller group of people interested in my work. I also believe a painting that is good is not affected by how old it is. A good piece is just good. A lot of my pieces do not sell right away and this means well over 5 years. I have sold paintings that are 10 and 15 years old plus. One even went to a museum. I had a painting that was over 20 years old and I did not think it would sell- a buyer bought it as well as another 20+ year old painting from my website and both pieces were priced over $3,000 and 18 x 24” and 20 x 30”. So think carefully about painting over. If you take the stretchers off do not destroy the painting. You never know.