I began this painting two years ago, a commissioned portrait of a mother and her young son. They live in Spain currently but have two other commissioned portraits by me of mom with her other two children, little girls. Each one is a representation of where they lived at the time and include some decorative, floral element. This one started out with a much more straight forward background - part of the fireplace, the large stuffed chair, a cushion and a bit of drapery. It has never felt right to me so it has sat here in my studio all this time, often facing the wall. Finally I decided it needed some plant life and I wanted to put a large potted plant behind them to soften the hard edges of the marble mantle and to be a complement, colour wise, to the red chair. My client asked that I use Christmas decor and, like the other paintings, very much wanted it to be something that is really in her home. She sent photos of this potted Xmas plant. I was, at first, not inclined to use it. It seemed out of place, too fussy, and much too small. I ignored it for two months. Two weeks ago I printed out the photo of the plant and quickly laid in the greenery onto the painting. It was horrible. But it was a problem finally tackled. It sat for a week. I felt the entire painting had been compromised and that I would have to begin from scratch. Then I read about "cleaning" a painting between layers of paint with diluted ammonia, and then "oiling" the painting surface lightly with medium. The diluted ammonia would pick up any undried paint. This worked. I cleaned off a good portion of the mess I had made and then carefully oiled the surface. I waited two more days for it to dry and then cut out my photo of the plant and added it to a print out of the painting so that I could adjust the composition to fit the plant. I carefully started in the middle, with the red berries and have been slowly working my way out from the center, a little each day. I gave up trying to paint it in a hurry just so I could get it out of my sight. Now I have come to enjoy this plant tremendously! In a few days it should be completed. It is adding an unsuspected vitality to this painting and I'm hoping the client will feel the same. A tiresome but valuable lesson.