Monday, March 1

How Do You Know When Your Painting Is Finished? I'll Tell You How...

Today’s Image
"Rehearsal Dinner"
Watercolor on Paper
Copyright 2010

You may think I’m not serious, but I am, about the subject of today’s blog, which is: how do you know when your painting is finished?

I know. You’re thinking, surely he can art blog about something more interesting than this.

However, I have just gone through one week of: starting and stopping, wondering about, looking at again and again, putting away and taking out, being doubtful, generally being in a quandary over whether or not my latest painting was finished.

Has this happened to anyone else? (I hope so.)

Maybe it’s because I have worked on this watercolor (see Today's Image) since the first week in January, that is 2 ½ months, which for me is quite a while. I’m no speed-painter, but I figured it up, and of the paintings I’ve completed during the last year, most were finished within in about five weeks.

I may not be the brightest color on the palette, but even I know time is not the determining factor of when a painting is finished, and it certainly has nothing to do with the quality of the art (eye of the be-holder and all that).

Yet, I wonder still...

Am I over-working this painting?

Does it look finished?

How “perfect” does it have to be?

Does it need something else?

Have I “given it my all?”

Who decides these things anyway? (Oh yeah, that’s my job.)

Finally, on the sixth day, I said, “Enough.”

How did I know it was "enough" and finally finished? What was it that switched it from being incomplete to complete?

It was f-e-a-r.

Yes, fear--that emotion that pours adrenaline into our bloodstreams, that triggers the fight-or-flight response, that motivates us to do SOMETHING, even if it’s nothing, as in my case.

I was fearful and afraid that I would ruin my painting if I added one more brushstroke, changed one more spot, one more shadow, one more color.

That, my fellow artists, is the secret and the fool-proof way to know when your painting is finished.


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