Overworking a Painting

By: Courtney McCreary

Does this piece seem familiar? You might recognize it from one of my posts from a few weeks ago. I was originally going to post it again once it was complete, but while I was working on it I noticed it would actually give me an opportunity to talk about overworked paintings.


Because this is a mixed media piece, I figured it would be helpful to add some colored pencil to create textures. What I didn’t realize was that I was overusing the colored pencils and consequently giving parts of the painting a very muddy appearance. You can especially notice it on the right side in the grass. This is an example of overworking, and it can happen anywhere from a small section of a piece to the entire piece itself.

Overworking a painting, and realizing it’s overworked, can be frustrating because it can be extremely difficult to fix. Unfortunately, sometimes you might just have to scrap the whole thing, because adding more to it with the intention of fixing it will actually just make it worse. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially if it’s something you’ve been working on for so long. Working in mixed media gives you a bit of an advantage, because you can go back in and add an entirely new material to balance it out. Sometimes that can work. With experience, you find out which materials work together and sometimes you can find a way to salvage your piece.

In my case, I’ll try experimenting with pastels and maybe ink to see if I can fix the muddy parts in this piece. If anything  (as frustrating as it is) it is a learning experience. Now I know next time to maybe cool it with the colored pencil, or maybe just omit it all together.

Like I said, you figure stuff out as you go. With more practice and experience, you begin to understand what works and what doesn’t. Have patience. Not every piece will be perfect on your first try.

Good luck with your painting!


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