I think every artist knows the feeling of overworking a painting or a drawing. And this is something that I've wanted to write about for a while because I think it's the difference between professional work and amateur.
If you like the freshness of the work by artists like John Singer Sargent and Sorolla, then I'm going to share some of my own insight about how to avoid overworking a painting.
1. It's better to leave a painting slightly unfinished, instead of working something to death. The painting will look worse if you get finicky with the color and overall painting. It will lose the freshness and spontaneity that you want.
2. Stay far away from your subject! What I mean by this is to not get too close to whatever you're painting. This is easier when you're painting from life, but if you're using photos on your computer or phone, then DON'T ZOOM IN. I know it's tempting to zoom in and see every detail, but trust me when I say that it will only make it harder to paint. Details in a painting are always secondary to the larger value structure and composition.
3. Don't mess with it. This is always easier said than done, but you must learn to leave the painting alone. This is especially true when you're working with watercolor because watercolor painting is very fragile. Never use two strokes, when one stroke will suffice.
So this is what I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I hope that it helps shed some light on this really important topic. Remember to keep painting, keep practicing and have fun!