But, how do you fix your mistakes if you're trying to avoid fiddling? Only two options come to mind: 1) Take a (temporary?) vow not to correct anything.
2) Don't make any mistakes.
I think number 1 is the more difficult. Once I believe I've made a mistake, I really want to fix it. But if I've given myself clear and simple guidelines I'm likely to be satisfied with whatever happens on the page.
Rex Brandt Last Light, study
I can't find anyplace in Rex Brandt's study where he went back in to correct something. It's clear that he knew just what he wanted to try, and it is actually pretty simple. Let's look at the blue brushstrokes. To find the guidelines for such confident brushwork Rex could have anticipated the value, color and edge quality he wanted. Then he might have asked "What percentage of the warm shape is going to become cobalt blue ?", "What kind of shapes will the blue strokes be?", and "How
are the blue shapes distributed within the big warm shape?" These, you may have noticed, are all abstract questions. Proportion? Pattern? Distribution?
That may seem like a lot of cerebral activity when you see it all written out, but most of the questions were automatic for such an experienced painter, and the answers followed immediately upon the questions. In fact, much of what seems like thoughtful decision-making is more like "checking in" to see what your intentions are. The gut is definitely involved in making a statement.
You can feel the artist's detachment in this painting. She is equally determined to let the paint go and to leave what it does alone. Her guidelines are very broad in the early stages: Warm, soft, save some white. Nothing specific. The middle value shapes just barely begin to describe space and content. Is that a horizon? Are those streetlights? Headlights? Then, finally, the darks are more descriptive. That is definitely a building, and that is a utility pole. There is plenty of room at every stage of this painting for the paint to do what it wants. The artist knows that we will make it all as meaningful as we need it to be, but all she has given us are a few clues. Would you have been tempted to make corrections?
What were the guidelines when the lights were being applied? Go down the list:
Color? where are the warm lights? Where are the cool?
Value? What proportion will be white?
Edges? Hard? Soft?
Composition? Vertical? Horizontal? Big shapes? Small shapes?
When do the strokes become descriptive? Do they ever?
By staying abstract as long as possible, you can conceivably paint the entire picture without ever making a mistake!