Sareena writes: Hi Lisa, I feel the biggest problem I have with paintings and drawings I start  is finishing them off, or overworking them to the point where I no longer like it. I have so much unfished art because I usually get bored of the piece or over work it so it either ends up in the trash or unfinished to complete ‘later’. Do you have any tips for not overworking a painting and for actually finishing a piece off?
Thanks  🙂

Here’s the thing about “overworking” a painting. The only times this really happens is if

  1. You are working in oil paint and not letting your paint dry between layers so you end up over blending and creating mud.
  2. You are working in watercolor and over blending/working an area causing the paint to lift and create mud.

I’m sure we can all come up with rare exceptions to that, but realistically, those are the main two causes. I suspect that this idea of overworking a painting comes from oil painters who were fairly inexperienced and that idea morphed over the years into one that artists of all mediums fear.

The fact is sometimes we have bad layers. But it’s just that, a bad layer. Nothing is ruined or “overworked”. It’s just not finished. Keep working on it until it is finished. Those paintings you’re throwing off to the side because you’re worried about overworking them aren’t helping you to progress in your skill. So what if you messed them up…you aren’t finishing them anyway so they are essentially trash at that point regardless. Finish your work, learn what you can from it and move onto the next piece!

As for putting it aside to finish later, I learned a long time ago not to allow myself to start a new project until I finish the current one. Does that mean I rush through the current one that I’m bored with so that I can start something new? Maybe. But it’s better than never finishing it at all!