Paintings can so easily have a little too much time on them becoming overworked and a little laboured. I thought a good analogy might be the outcome of cooking a Victoria Sponge cake .
If you slightly over cook one of these cakes it smells slightly over-cooked when it comes out of the oven, it is slightly over-coloured with a bit of a crisp edge on the outside edges and it loses some of its subtle cakey fragrance to a more caramelised finish (to be polite). But if you slightly undercook it, it will be moist and tasty, has a full buttery flavour, and on the downside it might lack a little colour. Which is best? Definitely the latter for the tastiest cake.
Catching the cake at it’s optimum moment is possible with practice but there is little variation from one cake to the next so eventually a plan for timing and temperature will make it perfect. Obviously this is very different to the variations that are possible from one painting to the next. But the idea of relating over-cooking and under-cooking a sponge cake to painting is purely for the reason that stopping a bit before the optimum moment will allow a painting to look more vibrant, spontaneous, and more intuitive rather than laboured and probably a bit muddied. It might not be perfect but it is likely to be a better finish. Just like the cake.
Trying to under-work a painting is soooooo hard by comparison to overworking. Over-cooking or overworking it is easy. It is easy for me to see bits of my paintings that might be improved and therefore I could keep picking at it. So today I am trying very hard to not do any more to this painting of a Springer Spaniel.
What could be done to try to prevent getting to the over-painting stage? I wonder if in the back of my mind I think people who look at this picture might find fault for me not “tidying ” everything up, and somehow I have to let go of this idea at an opportune moment. Perhaps the questions I should be asking myself are: How happy am I about the painting? Can I get away with finishing it at this moment?
I am tempted to keep going on this painting, but I think I might get away with stopping right now. So hands off, let’s clean the brushes and here is Fred smiling.