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Saturday, February 03, 2018

Do You Have a Magic Mat?

'A Chance of Snow'               11x14                  pastel             ©Karen Margulis

 Am I done yet?  It's one of the most difficult things about painting. How do we know when we are finished? Overworking is all too easy. You may have heard the saying that it takes a group of artists to paint a painting....one at the easel and the others to say when it is time to stop.

What happens when we are alone in our studios?  How can we tell if the painting is finished? First, is is very important to step back frequently.  But what do we look for when we step back? How will that help us determine when the painting is done?

Everyone needs a simple and inexpensive tool that I like to call The Magic Mat.

Time to step back and evaluate the painting 

The Magic Mat is simply a plain black mat. I had my framer friend cut them to fit the standard sizes from 5x7 up to 16x20. I use the mats when I am in the end stages of my painting. The black mat allows me to evaluate the painting. It eliminates the clutter on my board and draws my eye into the painting.  Richard McKinley uses black tape around a painting which does the same thing and is much more portable. The mats are great to have on hand in the studio.

The mats are magic because very often they allow us to see that a painting is closer to being finished than we thought. They prevent us from fiddling and overworking. Viewing a painting with a magic mat makes easier to see what needs to be done or changed. Sometimes it is nothing at all!

The Magic Mat at work
How did the Magic Mat help today's demo painting? It allowed me to see that I had made an arrow of dark leading the viewer out of the page. I also noticed a dark band at the bottom of the paper that I didn't like. I didn't like the colors in the trees. I was able to then go back and make the needed corrections. If I didn't step back and have a way to isolate the painting, I might have fussed and fiddled until the painting was mud!

close up detail of trees

Painting notes: Today's painting was done on a warm gray piece of canon mi-teintes paper with a variety of Nupastels, Ludwigs and Townsends.

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Crystal Thursby said...

Definitely see that this is a very handy tool to have! Wow! What sizes do you have? Or recommend? Thank you!

robertsloan2art said...

That is very cool! I cut my own mats, and will again once they get my studio up. So I can do a series of these as soon as I set up my table. I used to just drop whatever mats I had around on a painting, but a pure black one is great for drama!