When to stop is the most important thing in painting.  It makes the difference between average and interesting, overworked and work in progress.

I find this painting overworked, I stayed on it, adding more texture, more colours, more details, never satisfied. I did not recognize the moment when it was done, my mind was not focusing properly, preoccupied with other things.

The lesson is to relax before the session and get rid of intrusive thoughts that have nothing to do with painting.

Quand arréter est la chose la plus importante en peinture. C’est ce qui fait la différence entre moyen et interessant, trop travaillé et pas fini.

Je trouve cette peinture trop travaillée. Je suis restée dessus, ajoutant plus de texture, plus de couleurs, plus de détails, jamais satisfaite. Je n’ai pas reconnu le moment de la fin, mon esprit ne se concentrait pas correctement, préoccupé par d’autres choses.

La leçon: relaxez avant la session et liberer l’esprit de toutes pensées intrusives n’ayant rien à voir avec la peinture.



19 thoughts on “Stop!

  1. Whilst I share your feelings when I overwork something, I also think i’s the only way we CAN learn how far too far is, if you see what I mean.

    And the colours are lovely and rich 🙂

    • I see what you mean 🙂 and I agree. Trial and error are important. I also see, for me, that the state of mind is as important as the technique, if my mind is not set to create, better go walk 😉
      thank you very much

  2. I have two kinds of pictures, ones that I do spontaneously which I stop working on when that natural pause of ideas arrives, or the light fails, or I’m hopelessly interrupted, etc.. And the other kind of picture is one that I draw out over long periods, that I work on really until I cannot think of anything further to do to it. Having two ways of working means that there’s opportunity for spontaneity and also opportunity to be logical, thorough, to do something that cannot be done in a short span. It’s true that one can overwork a picture — and this depends much upon the medium being used. Some media get messy when you fidget with them too much. But there’s also valuable things you learn by pushing along. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a picture in order to learn whatever it is that’s available to learn in a long process. But since you can always make another picture, there’s really no reason not to do it. And so I’m a firm believer in “over-working” (as a process) since it’s the only way to get to the other side of that process into territory that has to do with sustained seeing.

    I’m not suggesting that “over-working” is an end in itself! One’s saying it’s “over-worked” is an admission that the idea started to fall apart somehow. But willingness to “over-work” is a means to learning how to complicate or sustain certain kinds of ideas, techniques, etc. In order to get over to the side of that process to the point where it does succeed means having to deal with the failures peculiar to that kind of thinking.

    The spontaneous kind of picture has its problems too — sometimes one stops too soon. So they are flip sides of something. But with either process, the point is to keep working. If a spontaneous picture fails, do another, and another. If the sustained picture “is failing” keep working at it until, hopefully, it starts making sense. And of course the specific questions one asks in each case about whatever it is you’re looking at and longing for are not things one can easily generalize about since they are always changing ….

    Wish I could write this in French. Poor me, I’m stuck saying it in English!

  3. À mon avis, cette image n’est pas plus travaillé du tout. Il y a une atmosphère merveilleuse. Il y a des textures intéressantes, des couches entre des surfaces, et une qualité de profondeur.

    • bonjour Aletha
      merci beaucoup pour ces deux commentaires,
      I agree with you, working and reworking on a painting is good, and even with watermedium I do work and rework usually on several days, letting me time to think.
      When I use the term overwork it has more to do with the state of mind I was, not really in the process but rather thinking over other problems, and when I look back at this painting I recall exactly my state of mind and preocupations, funny isn’t ? I think that the painting once done is no more mine and may be viewed by others in a totally new way, which is good,
      thank you for your good words on it, I can see some in it now

      • Maybe it’s semantics here? In English the term “over-work” usually refers to some kind of destruction of the picture or artist’s intention by the over application of paint (pigment, crayon, layering, etc.) But if I understand you, you’re talking about something contemplative — that the way of thinking about the image was over-wrought. And now you recall that mental process and find that you don’t like it…? Is that closer to what you meant? If I understand you, that’s an interesting problem to have.

        I was addressing over work in the physical sense — because I hear a lot of artists talk about it. The consensus seems to be that over-work is fixed by avoiding the problem in the first place. But lots of media have ways of using them that permit abundant change and correction, and often an overworked picture can be adjusted and brought back to a desirable state (especially using oil paints or these days via computer applications). So I offered the advice that, I think, doesn’t get quite enough play — the advice to go through the chaos.

        But your comment poses a different quandary — about the ways of thinking and responding emotionally to the image while you’re making it. I’m not sure I can offer much comfort because often we are simply stuck with ideas in our heads that we don’t want. It’s a psychological paradox that by saying I don’t want to think about X, I am thinking about X. The comfort I can offer is that your brain is really complex and operates on different levels simultaneously. Much of your thought process is subliminal — you aren’t aware of it. You can do very deliberative things without being aware of them. And for the artist my “chaos” advice applies to this invisible deliberative process too — maybe it even especially applies to the invisible thoughts and intentions and to their being — literally — made “visible” by working through the image.

        You might not be aware of the really smart things your brain does while you are just seeing and responding to the image. So even when you have a thought process that you consciously don’t like and want to avoid, as long as you continue working, you can take some assurance that there’s also a silent/invisible mental process that operates independently of conscious thought. And to trust this invisible thought process works greatly to your advantage.

        And you really cannot stop the invisible process in any case (except by quiting 😦 … or, let’s say, the key to affecting subliminal change is a bit tricky and indirect. So trust your inner chaos!

        There’s my long-winded Dr-Freud-the-artist, diagnosis for you!

  4. Je parlais sur le travail dans le sens physique parce que j’entends beaucoup d’artistes parler. Le consensus semble être que la peinture trop travaillée est fixé en évitant le problème en premier lieu . Mais beaucoup de médias ont les moyens de les utiliser qui permettent des changements et corrections abondantes, et souvent une image surchargés peuvent être ajustés et ramenés à un état souhaitable ( surtout en utilisant des peintures à l’huile ou ces jours-ci via les applications informatiques ) . Je proposai donc le conseil que , je pense, ne reçoit pas assez jouer – les conseils de passer par le chaos.
    Mais ta commentaire pose un autre dilemme – sur les façons de penser et de réagir émotionnellement à l’image pendant que vous la faites. Je ne suis pas sûr que je peux offrir beaucoup de confort parce que souvent nous sommes tout simplement coincés avec des idées dans nos têtes que nous ne voulons pas. C’est un paradoxe psychologique qu’en disant que je ne veux pas penser à X , je pense à X. Le confort que je peux offrir , c’est que le cerveau est très complexe et fonctionne sur différents niveaux simultanément. Une grande partie de processus de pensée est subliminal, agissant en dehors de la sensibilisation. Tu peux faire des choses très délibératifs sans s’en aperçoive. Et pour l’artiste mes conseils ” du chaos ” s’applique à ce processus délibératif invisible aussi – peut-être qu’il s’applique même en particulier pour ces sentiments et ces pensées invisibles et à leur faire – littéralement – en «visible» en travaillant à travers l’image .

    Le cerveau fait des choses très intelligentes à votre insu alors que tu vois et répond à l’image. Donc même si tu as un processus de pensée que tu consciemment n’aime pas et que tu veux éviter, tant que tu continue à travailler, tu peux prendre une certaine assurance qu’il ya aussi un processus mental silencieux / invisible qui fonctionne indépendamment de la pensée consciente . Et de faire confiance à ce processus de pensée invisible fonctionne grandement à ton avantage .

    Et tu ne peux vraiment pas arrêter le processus invisible dans tous les cas (sauf en quittant … ou, disons, la clé pour influer sur le changement subliminal est un peu délicat et indirects. Alors fais confiance à ton chaos intérieur!
    Voila ma longue diagnostic verbeux de Dr-Freud-l’artiste pour toi!

      • I see that I never replied to your comments, first congratulations for the french one, very impressive to express such difficult notions in an other language., and I love reading you in French 🙂
        Rick just commented and I re read everything.
        As I told him what I find amazing is our ability to keep painting while busy with other thoughts.
        I am still not pleased with the above,and I find it interesting to analyse what and why I dont like, it is an on going process and thank you very much for your input .

  5. aloha Benedicte. i come long after this post and conversation, however i agree with Alethukuschan.

    i see the two kinds of “over-work” this word has going here. on the first which is what Alethukuschan was originally addressing i too found that painting through an overworked painting has great value. “having” the painting, then “losing” the painting (though over-working it) and then “bringing the painting back into being” is a great step into an enrichment process to our paint understanding (imo)—and often into the enrichment of a painting itself. i highly recommend it. painting through a lost painting until you get to the other side is exciting (imo). until it becomes wow again. that is highly rewarding in many ways.

    the issue of our mind switching gears at some point while in the middle of a painting is another issue (imo) much as Alethukuschan also says. i also agree with her that out mind works on many levels and that even tho our surface mind is spinning off onto something else there is still a deeper level mind that knows what it is doing in our painting process. however. i think it is also appropriate to stop when we recognize that entanglement of a conflicting surface mind. stop our painting process, focus on the subject our mind has shifted to in that moment and be in it. when that is resolved and the painting enters back into our mind as the primary focus we can if we wish to, return to the painting. i am not sure which way is best, maybe best is to explore both ways and decide which works best for you. or which you prefer. it may be a case by case choice as which to do.

    it’s reasonably clear to me that all human beings go through this kind of thing in one way or another at some time or another. it is not a devastating problem. rather it’s simply another state to explore and move beyond (again imo).

    and. imo, again. i like this work. i do not get the sense that it is over worked. it has been worked, that is clear. it was not a quick splash and done. i do not see a problem with that. in fact i am in awe of the work. or in wow of the work. the same working process is carried out throughout the image imo and works quite well. i like that sustained application (working) to all areas. that is one of the things that holds the work together for me. the final work may be too connected in your mind, to the state of your mind, at the time of creation to be able to separate out the power of the final look as it is. that is you seeing the work through your memory of the state of your mind when you created it. it takes seeing the work without the painter’s knowledge of the painting process it took to get there, to clearly see the end result. a viewer other than the painter has that advantage automatically. sometimes time will allow a painter to view their own work that way too. the work is beautiful and i like it a lot. that to me (again) is way fun. aloha.

    • aloha Rick ,
      woah! you just salvage a painting from destruction. I was ready to tear it in pieces and I read your comment and will leave it for the moment. The painting is happy 😉
      I agree with you and Aletha and can see the work and appreciate it , in others. More difficult to take a step away from my own work. As you said, this particular work brings me back, always, to what was going on in my head.
      What I find interesting is what you say about being able to go on with the painting process on an unconscious level while dealing with others problems in our mind. I never thought of it this way and it is a more positive way of seeing it.
      An other point to is the wording, I see a difference in overworked as going a step too much and a worked piece, the opposite of an instinctive piece.
      and very true, an overworked piece, worked again might become a very beautiful worked piece.

      It is a very interesting subject that for me go very deep in our mind and process,

      thank you very much for adding to the discussion

      • yes. i encourage you to keep this work. there is a lot of beauty in it (imo). including the heart that went into it.

        it’s always good to see what you are doing. even when it takes me a long time to get around.

        way fun. the fun of the season on you too. aloha.

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