We all have old paintings in our closets that seemed like huge skill breakthroughs at the time when we made them, but aren’t so good compared to what we can do now. Why not remake them with all the skills you have now? Remaking old paintings is a great way to get past art block, and it builds confidence to see how much better you can draw the same thing even a short time later!

Let’s begin with an objective critique of the old painting. It’s much easier to be objective about something that you didn’t just now pour all your heart into! Also, if the old painting has been stored away for a while, you’ll be looking at it fresh now. Notice all the things you like as well as the things you want to change.

The Old Painting

This painting is from 2020. One thing I like about it is how I used yellow gouache for some of the highlights on the water, to make it reflect the sky. I also like how the foreground tree branches frame it. The sunset lighting I was trying for was a good idea.

I don’t like the rest of it as much though, because the background looks like a one-dimensional wall, there are ink blending mistakes everywhere, and the forward-facing composition isn’t as interesting as a 3/4 view. I am also going to use a different character in the remake to reflect what I’m promoting nowadays.

The New Painting

Now that we’ve critiqued our old work, we can get started on the remake!

Step 1: Sketch

Make a small, quick sketch of how you want the new piece to look. I like the 3/4 view way better than the old composition. In this sketch, I added a forest in the background, which I like, but decided to leave out so that the painting wouldn’t get cluttered in the end. You can make several sketches if you like so that you’re certain about the composition.

Step 2: Final Line Art

Once you know for sure how you want a piece to look, draw it on watercolour paper. I kept the final composition super simple so that the focus would be on the character.

Step 3: Paint

I made the first painting with coloured inks, but for ease of blending, I switched to watercolour for this version. Watercolour also gives you more control of how light or dark your colours are, and how saturated they end up. I kept the sky very similar to the old version since I liked that late-in-the-day lighting.

Instead of making the lines so harsh in this version, I blended the hillside into the water to make the reflection easier to paint down the road.

I added soft shadows and reflections in the water while that part of the paper was wet so that the effect would be gentle and realistic.

I also coloured in the dock, the character, and the branch, using light paint mixtures so that I could gradually make it more saturated as I saw fit later.

Here you can see the colours are established, but the values haven’t been yet. There’s no rush.

By layering more saturated mixtures of colours, you make your painting look far more finished. I could have developed the contrast and saturation more than I did, but I didn’t want to overdo it because then it would be impossible to go back.

Step 4: Inking

I liked the lined style of the previous painting, so I kept it in this one, but I simplified the style by using one black brush pen for all of it rather than incorporating gouache. The values in this painting wound up being far lighter than in the old one, so there was no need to paint in highlights.

The one thing I might change if I remade this painting again is the saturation. I think it turned out a little bit “washed-out”, but sometimes the summer sun in late afternoon has that effect, so it still looks good to me.

I want to learn more about painting realistic water because I think I could have done better, but considering I painted it from imagination I don’t think it’s awful. Overall, this remade painting is way less flawed than the old one, and I’m happy with how my painting skills have improved in two years!

If you remake a painting of yours, be sure to show us on social media! Also, subscribing to our email newsletter gives you more lessons and exclusive updates like this. Enjoy painting!

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl.

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