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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

O is for Overworking a Painting ...Tips to Avoid it

'Spring is in the Air'           5x7          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
When is a painting finished?  Usually before you think it is.  Overworking a painting is a common malady.  Here in the South we like to call it 'Finishing Off' a painting.  You know as in kill it....overworking a painting until the freshness is gone.

Why does this happen?  I have a theory. Sometimes we think we need to work for a certain amount of time for a painting to be worthwhile or good.  If we create a painting too quickly how could it be any good?  So we plug away adding more and more pastel sometimes with no plan.  This happens often in a class or workshop situation where an artist just noodles with a painting until the instructor comes around.

After the block-in and the first layers of pastel are added. Slow down and make sure every mark has a purpose. No NOODLING! 

'Cherry Grove'        5x7        pastel      
Here are a few tips to help you prevent overworking your paintings.

  • Stop after each layer of pastel to evaluate the painting. Put it in a frame or mat and step back.
  • A frame or mat will help you remove distractions and will show off the painting. Often I am surprised at how a frame makes a painting look more finished than I thought it was.
  • If you aren't sure what to do next then STOP. This is another good time to step back and evaluate the painting. Ask yourself if you have said everything you wanted to say in the painting.
  • If you still aren't sure if you are done then you probably are or else you are very close.  Allow yourself to make 3 or 4 marks. It is often these last well placed marks that finish the painting.
  • Don't allow yourself to watch the clock....if you are happy with a painting after 10 minutes stop and put it aside. Evaluate it later. This is better than overworking and ruining the freshness.
  • Don't feel like you need to have every square inch of the painting covered with heavy pastel...having some areas unfinished and mysterious can be very effective.


Anonymous said...

Finish it off, that's too funny.

Nadica said...

Overworking a piece can happen in all forms of art(paintings, drawings, even sculptures). I'll keep those tips in mind.

Susan Gordon-Smith said...

Guilty guilty guilty! I struggle so much with my landscapes. Mt Pet portraits are loved by people for their detail. My landscapes suffer from it, lol!

M.W. Grant said...

I am the queen of overworking a painting! When we're having a pastel session I will just flat out announce to my pastel group that I am now in the overworking stage, i.e. in the process of ruining it. "Oh wait, just lemme fix this, lemme fix that," and on and on it goes. Thank you so much for these tips, so helpful. We DO marvel at the freshness and simplicity of your paintings!