Terri writes:  Hi Lisa. I am one of your “online students” from Eagle Idaho. I am currently working on learning how to paint with oils. My question is this: Can I go back to a piece a few months later and make improvements on it as I get better?

Yes, you absolutely can go back over a painting months later, as long as you’ve not varnished it. The thing is, for learning purposes, I don’t normally recommend it. Why? Because chances are, you will learn even more from starting over all together, and there are likely going to be issues that would be easier to fix by starting from scratch.

I often have students bring me things they started and they want my help in finishing them. More often than not, its SO much easier to start over with all of the new skills they’ve learned. quite often the drawing in the initial painting is off so that presents a problem all in it’s own. If the actual drawing is accurate though, then in those cases it can be worth reworking it.

In the end it’s really up to you, but as far as if the paint will be damaged in painting over it, no you should be fine if you were using a quality paint in the first place. Sometimes cheap paint can lift off the canvas when wet paint is applied over dry using certain blending techniques and glazing. Bob Ross paints are really bad about that for example (they are intended for wet into wet blending, not for layering).

In cases where the painting is older (several years) , I always recommend just starting from scratch because then the amount of things that the artist has learned is so significant that it really is more beneficial to start from scratch. Both for practice and for a better end result.