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Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Finish a Painting with Purpose

'We Stop for Poppies'                18x24                pastel              ©Karen Margulis
Knowing when a painting is done can be a challenge.  Overworking can sneak up on us. Especially when we are enjoying the painting process and not really paying attention to what we are doing. A good rule of thumb is to stop before you think you are finished. But then what?

I stop when I find myself mindlessly making marks. It is time to step back and evaluate the painting. I used to make mental notes about what I thought I needed to do to finish the painting. But if I was interrupted I would forget the list of finishing touches. Or sometimes I would get so involved with finishing an area I would loose sight of the other items I wanted to address.

I don't rely on mental notes.....I make real notes on my mini dry erase board.

Below is today's painting when I stopped to evaluate it. I decided on some areas of concern and I wrote down my solutions on the dry erase board.

stopped for evaluation part 1

My WHAT board helps me decide what I need to do to finish the painting

stopped for evaluation 2

I tackled these items one at a time. I changed the shape of the distant trees. I darkened the foreground grasses. I added some seed pods and another purple vertical flower to make a more pleasing arrangement of flowers. I changed the mountain color to a blue purple instead of green to push it back further.

I was pleased with the flowers but still didn't like the trees. The right side was too solid. I used sky color to break up the tree shape and added one more red spot of color. Now I was finished!

Painting notes: 18x24 on Ersta sanded paper with an alcohol wash underpainting


Matthew said...

I just stumbled across your website, and I'm very impressed! Your paintings are beautiful, and I also like how you go into detail about each painting, teaching some technique and reasoning behind them.

robertsloan2art said...

I love this painting! It's the perfect example of what you're talking about, the finishing strokes that kick it sky high into beauty. I get an ugly stage right before the finish and so I've gotten in the habit that if I hate it, switch to Finishing Moves.

Always thinking I'll have a lot of them but never more than about half a dozen. Sometimes only two or three and it's done, there's nothing more I could do. I'm getting better at spotting that moment too.