I was talking to a young artist the other day and she said that she was having a problem with an oil painting. She said she kept painting the same area over and over again until the paint was too thick and she had to scrape it off and start over. Oh, how I remember this problem! I went through this same thing when I first started painting. Not only is this frustrating, because you have obviously lost your original concept (or maybe you never had one to begin with) but this also gives your paintings a tight or overworked look.
I told her about a fun challenge that I came up with to help me.
Start with a small sketch and pick a certain number of brushstrokes it will take to complete it and try to stay within that number to finish it. Simple! For example - if you only had ten brushstrokes to finish a small landscape do you think you might be a little more conservative with your choices? Most definitely. You could also, of course, try this with bigger paintings and you might not always finish within the estimated number but I believe it does help the artist to focus on what is important. This little exercise helped me to make every brushstroke count and to stop “torturing” my artwork. Good Luck!