How often do you want a do-over? Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we wanted or we regret a decision we made. Especially when we now know better and can see what was the better action or choice.
It happens to all of us. (Isn’t the flood story of Genesis simply a massive do-over?)
Try try again
Making art is one area of life where the do over is easily available. Just throw away the old one and try again. Repeat as often as necessary.
Not every painting succeeds. But there is usually something good about each one or it still wouldn’t be sitting around. So sometimes I revisit a painting or a subject (these can be finished works or ones that never got off the ground.)
The most basic idea is to redo the painting, starting with a new piece of paper after determining what didn’t work. Sometime the design is off and I need to move or remove elements. Sometimes a good crop is needed, zooming in on the subject. There may be failures of techniques or a poor choice of color scheme (most likely this happens when there was no conscious choice of color scheme – I just used the most convenient color without a vision for how all of the colors would work together.)
Here is a old version of a painting that I made over five years ago from a photo from Tibet. I loved the subject so it was hard to realize its deficiencies. With a modest re-design – I shortened the hair decorations that separated the mother from the child to create a better sense of connection – and much better technique, I produced a very improved version.
Another option is to revise a “completed” painting. Perhaps cropping is all that is needed or increasing the contrast by adding darker darks. This can really pep up a dull work. (Although I must be careful since watercolor is sensitive. If too much painting has already been done, then additional layers will just muddy up the result.)
It is actually possible to wet the paper and remove some of the pigment. But this often scratches the paper and removes the possibility of creating sharp edges and vibrant colors. So this rarely results in a satisfying work. However, it sometimes works and if not I may have gotten a better sense of what needs to be done in a new attempt. (If you consider the painting to be sub standard, there is no problem with “ruining” it by trying to lift off paint or adding dramatic changes.)
Trash into treasure
Other times, I have a painting that I gave up on, not seeing any promise in what was done so far. But after a time, perhaps I can see the solution and continue with this painting. It may end up being a success or perhaps at least let me see why the painting doesn’t work (rather than just thinking “I don’t like it”.)
There are some subjects that I have attempted a number of times and still haven’t gotten it right. Clearly there is something there that I keep trying. I often try proposed radical crops to look for a better composition or bring the original photos or images of the painting attempts into Photoshop to try to move some elements around.
Sample set of crops. No final result yet!
If it worked the first time…
The last type of do-over is to continue painting a subject even when I have a successful piece. Another interpretation or angle occurs to me. I often have other photos from the same subject and may be able to use one of them to launch a new painting. Or even bring in elements from a different subject altogether.
There is no need to be a slave to the photograph. This is the ultimate do-over – to imagine if I had taken a different photograph.