I know I’m not the only one who tends to “overwork” paintings. Whether it’s in watercolor or oil, I’m constantly tweaking things when I should put down the brush and leave well enough alone. I’ve ruined countless paintings that way.
Today, I may have stumbled upon a solution to the problem. Instead of finishing a painting — at which point I inevitably start tweaking to fix this and that — I should just leave my paintings unfinished and walk away.
Take a look at this. It’s unfinished, but I like it. In fact, this may be one of my favorite oil paintings.
Now, I did visit “Foto-Flexer” to add a frame, in hopes of making it appear truly finished. But, framed or not, I like this unfinished painting.
I had planned to do much, much more with it. It was going to have brilliant autumn colors in the leaves — fiery oranges, vivid yellow, splotches of still-green leaves hanging on here and there. What you see is mostly the background “underpainting” I was doing in hopes of creating a “forest-like” effect, a rather misty look with vague images of trees in the background.
Whenever I’m oil painting, I tend to make quite a mess of myself. I had a lot of paint on my hands, so I stepped away to grab a bar of soap and clean up a bit before I continued working. As I stepped away, I glanced back at the easel just to get a better perspective on the composition.
I liked what I saw. I liked it a lot. I smiled, grabbed my camera, and for a moment I thought about how good this painting might look when it was finished. But then I thought again. I thought about trying to add those greens and oranges and yellows. I thought of how awful it would be. Those colors would change the scene entirely. Too much color would spoil the mood I’d somehow managed to create.
Nope. I wouldn’t dare touch this painting again. Absolutely no way was I about to pick up a brush and make another single stroke. For once, I was satisfied with a painting I’d done, never mind that I hadn’t finished it. It had finished itself, and thankfully I recognized that nothing more was needed.
So from now on, I’m going to quit half-way through every painting I do. Some, of course, will be too far from finished, and I’ll have to go back and do more. But I have a suspicion that many of my “half-painted” works will be better left undone.