When is a painting finished?
For me a painting is finished when it achieves my original aim and nothing bothers me. But sometimes I think I'm finished and then later I see a way I can improve on the work.
That's what happened with the three paintings below. After I lived with them for a while it became clear how I could improve the composition, values, or colors. Then I was itching to get started, but the work had to wait for a break in my schedule. Recently I was able to tackle several of these paint-over paintings and I'd like to share the results with you. Who doesn't love a good makeover? It's always fun to compare the before and after.
When I put the images side by side, I realize that the differences are not that discernible at this scale looking at photos versus the originals. But stay with me. I'll point out exactly what I did, and why I think it improves the painting. Then you can decide for yourself.
Red can be difficult
I realized that in this painting the red car always felt too dark and the color too dull, but I didn't know what I wanted to do to improve it. The car in my reference photo was black, which did not give me any clues in terms of how to paint a red car. I decided to make the value lighter and use a cooler red. Next I worked on the yellow greens in the greenery. On the Munsel color wheel the compliment of red is not a forest green, but a blue green, which I tend to like better. So I made all the greenery less yellow and more blue. I'm pleased with the painting and I feel it is more unified.
Yellow vs. blue
I looked at this one for quite some time before I figured out what was wrong. I realized that because I had a lot of each color, the yellow in the umbrellas was fighting for attention with the blue in the ocean. I liked the shape of the umbrellas but I didn't want them to take over the painting.
So I made the umbrellas much less saturated, I lightened the sea to reduce the contrast against the terrace, and I made the shrubbery less yellow. All this makes the people and furniture more prominent, which I like.
Out of the shadows
This last one is even more difficult to see in the photos. In normal room lighting this painting felt dark and the line of trees in the background tended to disappear in front of the building.
I lightened the trees, making sure to keep the lighter foliage cool. This is because the trees were in shadow, so the light would be coming from the blue sky and not from the yellow sun. I also made some minor changes to the woman walking in the background and the light blue car to make them a little more prominent.
In all these paintings, subtle changes made me much happier with the images.
OK, tell me truthfully: in the three cases above, which do you like better, the before or the after? Why?