Knowing When to Stop

When I first started this painting, I really liked it. The background colors were beautiful…soft shades of red, yellow and blue. There was a faint hint of trees across the back hill, and the hills sloped gently down into the foreground. Everything was looking pretty good…and then I didn’t know when to put down my brush.

I thought it needed more contrast, so instead of leaving it soft and atmospheric, I started adding dark trees. The edge of the treeline got messed up, so I had to move it lower. That messed up the slope of the hills, so I tried to correct that by adding more paint.

It just kept going and going. As soon as I would try to fix something, I would find something else that I wanted to tweak. The colors that had started out so clear and beautiful started getting muddier and muddier.

In the end, this is what I wound up with. It’s not the worst study I have ever painted. In fact, I kind of like it. The problem is that it was a lot better before I went on my overworking spree.  The lesson for me is to know when to stop.

I remember watching a watercolor video from someone a few months ago. I can’t remember who it was, but one of the things they said was, “Stop before you think you’re done.”

It’s a really good suggestion, and is definitely something I want to try to start doing. Leaving something a little undone is far better that having it end up muddy and overworked. It’s just so hard to resist the temptation to fix things!

To end on a positive note, I actually do like the way the distant trees came out in this. And I find it kind of comical that the buffalo on the far right looks a little bit like he’s using the bathroom 🙂


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