I’ve been painting most of my life about half that time professionally, and it’s still so hard to see my paintings in an objective light. Especially when the painting is fresh, I seem to have a love/hate relationship with it. It’s either great or awful, neither viewpoint being realistic or objective. I think it’s the “not being able to see the forest for the trees” syndrome. It’s why we learn to evaluate our work from a distance, in a mirror, upside down, and even better, after some time has passed whatever it takes to give us a different perspective – for us to “see” it as it really is without that emotional veil that obscures both its flaws and/or beauties.
When I truly “see: the painting and realize – and accept – that a painting needs some adjustments I then figure out in a very methodical way how to accomplish those corrections. Here are examples in water color and oil:
In this watercolor (seen in Watercolor Unleashed, New Directions for Traditional Painting Techniques – North Light 2013) the detail on the left shows an area of the background that had gotten muddier that I liked, so I scrubbed it out (detail on right) in order to re-paint the area. It wasn’t all that horrible, but I didn’t like it! The finished painting is shown below. looking back on it now, I think I could have improved it even more. If it comes back to me from Esprit Décor Gallery, maybe I’ll work on it again. I’m not sure any painting is truly finished until it’s out of our hands – as in sold!
In the oil painting below you can see that the painting was well underway – even signed! – when I suddenly comprehended that the boulder on the right was a terribly awkward and overpowering shape, even though it’s exactly the way it was in nature. Remaining true to “that’s the way it was” stopped the eye from moving through the painting. On canvas, reality wasn’t “working”. My painting needed to be more appealing more eye-catching!
After analyzing the situation, I scraped paint off the top half of the boulder and repainted it, painting the stream and another rock in to fill the space behind it – in my view a huge improvement!
The point is that when there’s room for improvement and you can figure out how to accomplish that improvement, do it. We learn a lot that way and if that particular painting isn’t improved – sometimes they’re ruined! – in the long run our work improves because that’s one way we “raise the bar” for our own growth.