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Art is not a linear process. Watch a painting get 'overworked' and learn techniques to get back on track.


Learn the importance of restating the intent of a painting as it progresses. Better art comes from not being invested in the outcome or prior brush marks. When is a painting done? When it looks good. Sometimes this is quickly, sometimes hours, sometimes weeks. Sometimes it fails, or gets another layer later on. Trust the art process of "redo" to maximize creativity. Regardless of media this mindset allows for objective painting. See watercolor notes below. All other media can use the oil process.

A pitfall for me is to fall in love with the 'bits and pieces' and forget that all aspects of the art must serve the whole painting. This means that even if I like a certain passage it must look good when viewing the whole painting. Another pitfall for me is to love 'jazzy bits' of glitter, highlight, and drama. Rushing this embellishment on a painting (without proper structure to support it) will cause a painting to fail because there is too much competing information for the viewer. Instead of thinking of this as a disaster, or 'failed painting' train your eye to easily bring it back on track. Steping back, or allowing the eye to rest between paint sessions can let you 'see' the art again for real. This happened to me during video filming. One day I liked the art, the other day I didn't. I had lost my objective view of it. Scraping down is a great way to get back on track with an oil. It may feel scary or radical at first, but gets much easier with practice.

OIL: Often when painting I will scrape down or re-paint several times. I even do this during a time crunch such as a Quick Draw (2 hours to make a painting during a wet-paint competition with patrons looking on). Shown here is how to scrape and repaint when wet. However, this can also be done in layers when the art is dry (use fat-over-lean rules and add a dot of oil for next layers).

WATERCOLOR: Don't assume that transparent watercolor can't use the push-pull ideas presented here. It is easy to do when wet with my selected paints that lift out fairly easily. See the Watercolor Basics video in Fundamentals for more info. If you use other colors than my suggested ones you might have staining colors that are hard to lift out. Also if dry or old, watercolor can sink into fibers. Options for restating a watercolor include lifting out paint. Here is the order to lift out from gentle/forvigng to harsh... 1) Damp brush wiggle, blot with paper towel (do not scrape or rub) and repeat; 2) natural sponge gentle scrub, use lots of water, and blot with paper towel; 3) take art to the sink and use a spray bottle to 'hose down' the busy area of paint to remove; 4) wet bristle hog hair brush, blot and repeat, or Mr. Clean eraser; 5) gouache repaint; 6) sandpaper or excacto knife. It will be very important to let the paper 'heal' by drying first after the wet lifting. This allows for paint to once again sit on the surface. The paper will not be 100% the same of course, but it's interesting to try this different lifting out/repainting ideas.

Try to scrape down, and try to repaint an artwork. Try one or the other in a combination as I show here in this video.

This is one of the most challenging aspects of creating a painting because it taps into fears of 'doing it wrong' or 'failed art'. Shift the mindset to curiosity with paint. Have a 'what if' idea... what if I tried this? What if I did that? This is how creative brains work and it's important to explore. Don't be afraid that a 'good bit' will be destroyed and you won't get it back. Freshness in art is overrated if you treat marks as precious. Just look at John Singer Sargent's art work. His dash and fresh style is from the 'what if' mindset. His oils show many layers where items are repainted. He does not save the prior layer, but instead piles new paint on with fat strokes and dashing mark.