Knowing When to Stop

This is an early stage of the painting when I should have stopped.

It was a beautiful afternoon so I took my pastels outside and set up in the backyard.  I had a nice view of my neighbor's house.  This is not a subject I usually do.  I prefer broad sweeping views.  I find they help me to not get too caught up with detail.  But I wanted to paint outside and I didn't want to travel from home because I'm recovering from a bad cold.  As I sat and contemplated what was before me I thought of Wolf Kahn's barns and houses, which he does so well.  I felt encouraged and so I began:

first lay in of pastel and alcohol wash
So far, so good.  I continued on with the second pass with pastel after the alcohol wash dried:

the painting after several layers of pastel
 In hindsight I wish I had stopped at this point.  As I look back at it now I find it pleasing.  The things that bothered me, and why I continued to work on it, such as a certain wobbliness of the house and the contrast of the dark tree and the red flowers, are pleasing to me now.  However, I couldn't see that at the time, so I continued to work on it.  This would have been a good time to put the painting aside and revisit it later.

more layers of pastel and overworking
 As I continued I began to have a feeling of struggle.  This is not what I intended, but after I had gone too far I very much wanted to fix it, but nothing I did worked.  Perhaps it could have been left at this stage too.  But something about it started to feel too stiff and artificial.  So I continued to work on it by basically wiping it down with another alcohol wash:

after second alcohol wash
 So there is it - the state it rests in now.  I will set it aside, likely in my discard pile.  Perhaps I will revisit it on another day.  But all is not lost - spending time outside painting is its own reward. 

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