It sat in the stack of unfinished paintings for at least two years.
Starting so promisingly, I’d painted the cluster of saskatoon berries, then the gnarled elbow that anchored them, and then I bottomed out. The background was a mess, and I couldn’t figure out how to paint the twining tangle of leaves and branches without losing the focal point in the complexity.
I put the painting away, and I really though that was the end. I used the reference photo for another, larger painting, and the little saskatoon berry study was buried under a growing stack of paintings rejected. Only about a quarter of the paintings I produce ever get finished or framed to show or sell, and so it wasn’t a surprising loss.
But I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I loved that little cluster of berries too much. And it was a good thing I’m a little sentimental that way, because one day, while searching for a blank sheet of watercolour paper, I pulled out that lonely little berry painting. And suddenly I knew I could finish it.
It didn’t need more, but less. The detailed background that I’d been certain would distract from the foreground no longer seemed so necessary, and I was able to add hazy colour, deepen contrasts between front and back, and give the berries a starring role. It took less than an hour, plus two years, and it was finished.
“Purple Dusk” sold the first time it was shown publicly, and I learned a lesson about giving paintings time to develop. Some just take a little longer than others!