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Blog - When is a Painting 'Finished'?

When is a Painting ‘Finished’?

[N.B. This "Cacti at Sunset" painting is Sold.]

The true answer is "It depends on a number of factors."

1) Seeking a Goal

While an artist is actively painting, there are obvious parts of a painting that still need work. There may be parts of the canvas that are still blank or the image is not clear or portraying the emotion the artist is seeking. The artist can still see parts that need work, and it is obvious to him/her what those parts are.

When I painted the roses (see earlier blog), I kept painting until I felt that my goal of mastering roses to look like roses was achieved.

In the painting to the right, "Arizona cacti at sunset," I know the lower clouds are not depicted how I want them and the cacti need more definition, so, for me, it is not a finished piece.

2) Seeking Perspective

Sometimes, the artist gets stuck and cannot see for him/herself what else needs to be done. It is a good time to step away from the painting for further evaluation. This could be simply placing the canvas eight or ten feet away, and gazing at it from a distance, possibly squinting, and/or comparing it with the source photo or object. It could be taking a photo and looking at the photo reproduction. Other suggestions could be holding it upside or in a mirror.

I often let a painting "hang around" in my general viewing area for a few days, just glancing at it in passing. I thought the painting below was finished, but in looking it again several days later, it was obvious to me that the grassy areas need shadows. (I will paint those in the next time I pull out my acrylics.)

3) Seeking Other Advice

I have had five "painting buddies" over my artistic career, and their advice has been invaluable when I have gotten to a stopping point with a painting and haven't known what was needed. They can usually point out the next area(s) to work fairly quickly because they have not been "up close and personal" with the painting.

 4) Seeking Perfection
Some artists keep working on their paintings far longer than necessary, feeling their work is "not ready." Art is a human business, so perfection is not necessary. Maybe some of our work is better earlier than we imagine. I just did a small painting of pansies. I did not think it was finished, but have received several compliments about it being "fresh" and "accessible," so it may be complete, even though I did not think it was myself.

5) Seeking an Owner

In some cases, a work is a commission with a deadline or a show deadline is coming, and the artist just needs to let the work go as finished. In any case, the final arbitor of whether a painting is finished or not is when the artist is ready to relinquish the piece to posterity.

For more opinions on this subject, you may want to read these articles:

How Do You Know When a Painting is Finished?

When to Know Your Painting is Finished

How to Tell When Your Painting is Finished

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