24 Feb

Decision Fatigue

Numerous studies describe, define, test and/or debunk the concept of decision fatigue. The basic idea is that if you have to make too many decisions in too short a time your ability to do so becomes impaired. In a related vein, I have found my paintings work better if I remember to step back, or even walk away, rather than trying to decide everything in one session.

This is important because I tend to think about the paintings for a long time before I start them, so once I start I really want to finish them. I’ll step back, reconsider a color, try a different one, step back again, but still want to keep going. Sometimes, my tried and true walking away technique is the only thing that keeps me from overworking the paintings.

Overworking is what could happen if I kept going, eventually leading to so much pigment filling the texture of the surface that I can’t put any more pastel on it. Or leading to mud, from too many colors blending. Or to both of these bad results. This month I decided to try a new approach and challenge myself a bit more.

I’ve been enjoying some spectacular winter sunsets and playing with the images to decide how to paint them. My latest experiment to slow myself down is to work on two similar paintings at once. Using different formats, and taking them in slightly different directions mood-wise, seems to be doing the trick to slow me down a bit. These works in progress will hopefully end up stronger for it, and will end up looking like siblings, but not twins.


  1. Thank you, Sue! No doubt you understand the need to step away, as when you are writing grant proposals. And I’m glad you love the paintings!

  2. Wow, Beth, I really love both these paintings!! I agree, maybe siblings?! And I love the sentiment behind this post. Definitely a good idea to step away from a project, especially a creative one, and then return to it after a bit.

  3. Totally understand–overworking happens in a jiffy to me–I often do best, when I work quickly and stop. Leave it until way later. Love this piece.

  4. I agree. Same with writing. Working on family ancestry and it’s best to leave it alone for a while for edits. Your recent paintings look terrific. Maybe you need to visit the Cape for more subject matter

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