I always hear people say “don’t overwork it” about painting. But honestly, I don’t see a ton of overworked paintings in the world. But I do see a lot of incomplete, or bad paintings. And with oil paintings, the difference between a bad painting and a good painting is just that the bad painting hasn't arrived yet. You can always keep going, keep building, keep layering, keep editing.
So I think “don’t overwork it” is the opposite of the advice most of us need. “Don’t underwork it. Keep going until it’s good. Don’t stop short.” That’s better advice.
Here’s a piece I did a while ago. I wouldn’t say I was unhappy with it, as much as it just didn’t feel finished. I reworked it once. Then again. Then again. Then again today.
That got me thinking about all the paintings I’ve reworked lately. And something occurred to me. They always get better. I don’t rework them and think, oh shit, now it’s totally fuckered. I think, ah, I’ve found at least some of what I was looking for.
So I reminded myself: keep going until you arrive.
I still haven’t quite arrived with this one.
"The Commodore Hotel, Astoria"