Painting Upside-Down

It must have been when this painting was about half finished that I decided to turn it upside-down, in order to look at the composition from a different perspective. As it turned out, I liked it even better this way, so I kept working on it from this ‘upside-down’ position. Below you can see the end result: Orange-Pink Landscape, 2016

Strive for balance

When you examine a painting upside-down, especially a realistic painting, it is easier to ignore the image and to concentrate on the abstract aspects of the composition: how shapes, colors and lines are organized on the canvas and whether they are well-balanced. It is my experience that when I am satisfied with the composition of a work when turned upside-down, then the painting is usually in balance in its upright position, as well. Sometimes I’ll also check the painting in the mirror to see if in reflection it still holds together.

If a work is out of balance, it starts ‘bugging’ me after a while. That is why I need to let a finished painting lie around for a while, to see whether I still find it pleasing to the eye after a week or so. When I don’t, I start investigating what it is that bothers me. Sometimes it takes a while to uncover the cause, and when I do it is not always easy to rectify. An unbalanced composition is usually not easy to repair, and sometimes correction is impossible. With the latter, it is better to simply start over.

The paintings I create, large or small, are usually balanced slightly off center. This represents the so-called golden ratio. Even if a piece has intense colors and is full of dynamic gestures and rhythms, it must also have a balanced composition – one that makes you as beholder feel at ease and even reflective. Of course, everyone has his/her own taste and unique way of viewing and experiencing any given piece in terms of what catches their attention and what emotions they experience as they view it.


One time I needed to deliver a freshly made abstract painting to the framer very quickly (while still wet) in order to have it ready in time for an upcoming show. In a hurry, I had not yet signed the painting, nor had I written the title etc. on the back. When it came back it was framed upside down! Now I always write ‘This side up’ on the back side of my abstract works before sending them to the framer, just in case. If there was no signature on the front side of the here featured painting Orange-Pink Landscape, perhaps nobody would have noticed that it was upside down on the wall.

© Lieuwe Kingma, June 2016