Sometimes a painting cannot be saved.
The innocent early layers, brushed by inspiration, raw emotion, and surprise, have dried. What was given is stolen by strokes of disbelief and fear. As if the force of nature were bound by a thick coat, just in case. To protect itself from itself.
But there is a remaining strength, you assume. In doing so, you forget to feel. You cover the power with rigid, intellectual strokes. Structure, you say. It needs structure. Definition. It must be a thing I can control. Mine.
Until the colors devour each other, until they are mud. You turn your back, refusing to see it. This cannot be. I am beneath it, the victim of it.
You don’t remember where you began, only that you want to go back. If there weren’t so many lumps— such offenses— you would go. But the texture is scattered. Ravines compose danger, disorder. You judge it. Make claims. You would never do this, although you did.
Red. Hot pink. A storm of ecru will dampen the brightness without appearing too dark. Something shocking or clever will do. Anger is true. Use it, but call it passion. Turn back and blame the canvas for being in front of you. Manipulate it. Tell everyone how awful it is, all it has done to you. You!
Don’t tell them you touched it, this thing. Don’t look back on photos.
No evidence can change the fact: This is your process. The process does not belong to the thing. Justify it. Own it. Add contrast. Less contrast. Rags, knives, and clean brushes. More paint. Thicker mediums. Crystal glitter. You have it all.
The thing must behave.
Until it amounts to a weight that peels itself from the frame and it falls, all of it. Your process, undone. Regret is the only real thing now. Nothing can survive it, not even your refusal of it.
Out of your hands, to care for itself, the thing does not dry according to your breath. It streams off the canvas in search of elements within itself. It’s in conflict with your ideal. It cannot go back, not even for you.
The painting transforms independent of your will.
Eventually, maybe. You are humbled by the idea to paint again. More gracefully, you say, as if humility were a shame. I will paint more gracefully. There will be no revenge. Nothing will die outside my will again.
This is why, sometimes, a painting cannot be saved.