Even though it refers to the past time, the second conditional is used. Why? English tenses sometimes seem to be mixed, which makes me confused.
If creators knew when they were on their way to fashioning a masterpiece, their work would progress only forward: they would halt their idea generation efforts as they struck gold. But time an again, Simonton finds that they backtrack, returning to versions that they had earlier discarded as inadequate. In Beethoven’s most celebrated work, the Fifth Symphony, he scrapped the conclusion of the first movement because it felt too short, only to come back to it later. Had Beethoven been able to distinguish an extraordinary from an ordinary work, he would have accepted his composition immediately as a hit. When Picasso was painting his famous Guernica in protest of fascism, he produced 79 different drawings. Many of the images in the painting were based on his early sketches, not the later variations. "The subsequent sketches proved to constitute 'blind alleys' in which the artist did not know in advance that he was taking the wrong track," Simonton explains. If Picasso could judge his creations as he produced them, he would get consistently “warmer” and use the later drawings. But in reality, it was just as common that he got “colder.”