Wulf's Webden

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Overworked

YouTube has been a transformational tool for learning things. Other video sharing services are available and also useful in that respect but YouTube is the one that has become generic. People ‘google’ to find things and often end up checking ‘youtube’ videos. However, just because someone made a video, doesn’t mean the information is good even if the production values are high.

A particular case I have in mind is a seven minute video┬áby Lisa Clough, AKA Lachri, that I watched this morning on the subject of ‘overworking’ artwork. I disagreed so strongly that I almost commented on the video before deciding that it wasn’t going to be constructive to jump into a debate within a community that was new to me, so I’m going to vent here instead. Lachri’s two main points were that we should ditch the concept of ‘overworking’ with respect to artwork and that it is important to finish one thing before starting another. Let’s take them one by one.

Overworking is the idea that there comes a point when you aren’t going to improve a piece. There are some media where this may be true: for example, opaque paints or working in the digital field. However, it clearly doesn’t apply with watercolour or other translucent approaches. Watercolour is more forgiving than is often assumed but some colours stain and can’t be lifted. Each successive layer of paint reduces the amount of light reflected back from the underlying paper (producing a duller, muddy effect) and the surface you are working on is gradually changed. Indeed, for watercolour, it would be truer to say that every touch of the paper has consequence.

Even when you can redo to your hearts content, there is something stilted about an area which has been fiddled with too much. One or two confident strokes or lines can speak much more clearly than hours of tweaking and overpainting. Sometimes it is better to return to a fresh sheet of paper and start again or, in more earthy terms, you have to realise that you can’t polish a turd.

There is definite virtue in working and reworking an idea many times but not, I think, in only using a single surface to do so. I’ll return to finishing in another post.

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