A question from a reader:
What happens if you make a watercolor mistake, how do you determine if it is still ok, or you fix it as much as you can, do you still show the publisher? Especially if it is a piece you have put in long hours, a lot of people say only the artist can see the mistake as we are the most critical; still, the publisher may be even more so. In my own painting, some cupcakes did not turn out as I’d hoped, but I wonder could they be photoshopped later by the publisher, if the artist doesnt have photoshop? My main question is, do you re do the whole thing for one little area of a large painting or see if it can be salvaged via photoshop first?
They say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional knows how to fix mistakes. That is true to some degree, but not entirely. Even professionals have to start over at times.
In my watercolor illustrations, I improve my chances for fixing mistakes by using a good quality 300 lb paper that can take a good deal of reworking. So, if I make a mistake or don’t like a color, I can usually lift it out with a sponge or a felt nib. This has to be done gently so as not to tear the paper fibers. Most colors will lift out fairly easily. Some pigments, however will stain the paper. At that point, if the stain is very light, I may still be able to repaint over it. If it’s too dark and a large area, I will most likely have to redo the entire painting.
Sometimes I will use gouache to paint over small areas with remaining stain. It’s more opaque and covers better. This has to be reserved for spots that aren’t too obvious and it has to blend in with the rest of the painting. Watercolor pencils come in handy too for small spots that need a fix.
I have also fixed small spots where stain remained by letting the painting dry completely then scratched out the stain with an Exacto knife and then used some fine grit sandpaper to smooth it out. This, of course, changed the texture of the paper, but it was not an obvious spot and the end result was acceptable. I knew that it would reproduce well.
Conversely, I have drawers filled with paintings I have started and abandoned. This complex scene from Jingle Bells took me 55 hours to paint.
I had started several paintings of this scene and had almost finished one (50 hours or so) when I decided the colors were muddy because I had overworked it by adding too many layers of paint. It wasn’t just a part of the picture that didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, but the entire image. Even if I used photoshop, it would not have helped in this instance. (This is a photo of the original painting. The lighter green area on lower right is where the text was placed.)
Yes, we artists are our own worst critics, but that is what keeps us improving. I never send my art to the publisher unless I feel I have done my best at the time. I do not use Photoshop to fix mistakes. Yes, it would make my life a lot easier if I had a big scanner and was able to manipulate my art in Photoshop. But I’ll leave that up to the experts for now. My art directors do the high res scanning of my paintings and they do a beautiful job of getting the images very close to the originals. They even look better! They do not like to alter my images in Photoshop. If they feel something has to be redone, they’ll send the painting back to me. I once had to redo a tiny ladybug in flight because I did not paint the wings right! I have learned since that its outer shell splits to reveal the wings. It was an easy fix because I could lift out the color and paint over it.
from Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush
Some final tips:
Work lightly to build up to the darker colors. That way you can see the image take shape and see if the colors are working. Be careful not to build up too many layers and risk muddying the colors.
Choose non-staining pigments. You can do a test of all the colors you have by painting a small sample swatch, letting it dry completely and then seeing how it lifts out with a soft sponge.
Choose good quality paper.
Do color studies prior to the final painting to work out the colors.
When you are ready to start the final, work on the hardest part first, (For me it’s the faces, especially people’s.)
Questions are always welcome. I will answer them in a post like this.