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!
I was inspired today to paint a small painting of some honey suckle that my mom and I cut and put into a small glass vessel. What inspired me is a bluish reflection that you can see when you look at the glass from a certain angle. For the past few days, I would sit outside and look at the reflection and say, "Man, I should paint that." So today was the day and I pulled the trigger and painted it. This painting was also an experiment to test out some thicker passages of paint and other principles.
I used to paint thickly when I was younger, but got more into a smoother academic finish when I was in college. But recently I've been inspired by the work of Sorolla and Sargent a lot. I also recently read about Sargent in a PDF article that I highly recommend everyone should check out: Advice on Painting From John Singer Sargent. It wisely says in this booklet: The difference between a colored drawing and a painting is the amount of oil paint itself. So when I started today, I put out a large amount of each color that I needed and started painting more thickly.
The other tip from this booklet that I want to share that helped me with this painting is to paint the midtones first and then work in the darks and save the final lights and darks for the end. This is a principle that I've read about before and it really helps to control the values of the painting!
I hope that helped inspire some people! Enjoy your weekend!