During a recent trip to the Oregon Coast, we popped into Bandon Dunes for a late dinner one evening. Having heard positive reviews on this particular restaurant, our party of 6 sat ourselves down in anticipation of a fantastic meal.

Er…not so much.

Since it was late, I had snacked a little beforehand and wasn’t ravenously hungry. I decided on the spendy crab cakes. Just two, mind you. When they arrived for consumption, I was a little shocked at the size. Maybe a couple of inches in diameter, and not thick; on a bed of…nothing. Okay, there was an artistic swirl of sauce and maybe a sprig of something as a garnish, but…really?

And, yes, I can do the small meal at an inflated price. IF it has a wow punch. Like, I want to eat every last bite even if I am stuffed full to the gills (which I wouldn’t be anyway, in this case). A punch of brilliant flavor. A moan-ful moment.

These cakes? Not only were they super small, they were … meh. I mean, it wasn’t bad? But it sure wasn’t great.

So you are wondering where this is going? I had been working on a fox painting before I left (photo reference from my fabulous photographer friend, Sue Dougherty @offleashphotography…thanks sue!  You must check out her photos…gorgeous). When I got home, and looked at my in-process fox painting, I thought: meh. Okay, but not great. This fox was a mediocre crab cake on a bed of nothing.

Here is how it looked when I got home:

Beginning Mr. Fox

Beginning Mr. Fox, with the ocean behind him.

After the fox and the background were almost complete

Fox and sand dunes…BORING

I had changed the background from snow (the original photo) to sand dunes and ocean. A string from produce netting meandered through the gesso base, symbolizing trails the fox travels daily, in search of food or a mate. Produce netting also provided an interesting texture in the background. You can see this in the up-close view of his face, around his ear. The red circle at the top of the painting is a lid from my recycled Costco nut jar that I use for my water container. I place it under the Plexiglas to tilt the surface as I paint. This encourages wet pigment to move and provide interesting patterns.

Mr. Magnificent Fox deserved more. More pop. More drama. More…something! I mean, Good grief. I was not a painter of a crab-cake fox! No more mediocre! No more BORING!

So! I went into the background again with very dark value black and blue. I began by covering up the ocean. Yes, it took a little courage.

Correcting a BORING painting

Correcting a BORING painting by covering up the ocean and sand background

After painting the top third with a dark value, I broke up the color a bit with neutral and somewhat lighter squares shattering the foreground white.

Working on the foreground.

Working on the foreground.

I adjusted the pattern, then the values, and finished with this:

Detail of fox, showing the poofy tail, string of trails, produce netting texture, and squares

Detail of fox, showing the poofy tail, string of trails, produce netting texture, and squares

Detail of string at fox's leg

Detail of string at fox’s leg and the produce netting texture.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that I changed the painting. No more so-so!

Fox, 20x16, original watercolor, gesso, paper, produce netting, and watercolor pencil on recycled Plexiglas. $550

Fox, 20×16, original watercolor, gesso, paper, produce netting, and watercolor pencil on recycled Plexiglas. $750

Now, the painting has movement, drama, and interest. Dark blues contrast sharply with his magnificent orange coat. There are poofs of splatter paint at his tail, showing softness and the un-boundry of his fur. The layout and placement of dark values draw your eye around the painting. Your imagination can fill in what you see in the background. It holds your attention. It pops! What do you think? Did it change how you feel about the fox? Does it hold your attention more?

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