I'm talking about a painting that just...doesn't...quite...work! And what you might try to get yourself out of the problem.
Take this perfectly "ok" painting I did last weekend during an open studio session. It's ok but not stellar--a bit boring, a bit flat. I like the field of goldenrod and the willow on the left, but something's just not quite right about it.
First, I tried changing the angle of the pathway, adding a bit of shadow under the willow, expanding the group of yellow birches in the background, and experimenting with a different composition by cropping with a piece of paper clipped to one side. Maybe--it's better but still doesn't thrill me...
Figuring there was nothing to lose at this point, I tried spraying the work fairly heavily with fixative. First I spritzed with Spectra-Fix ( a casein-based product) but the pump sprayer head jammed and splattered a heavy coat in one area--ack! So in desperation I grabbed a can of Krylon fixative and sprayed the heck out of the whole thing. As a result, the painting was MUCH darker and the surface looked quite "plastic", but the "tooth" of the surface was restored. Interesting...now what?
Going back in with the pastels, I restored interest and texture to the goldenrod field, extended the shadow of the willow, and decided the rectangular format worked best after all (good thing I didn't actually chop the edge off!). It's still not the best thing I've ever painted, but I like the piece much better now, so next time you have a failure or a near-miss, take some risks, keep trying various things, and see where it takes you--after all, it's just a piece of paper!