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Saturday, January 18, 2020

How Do You Know When a Painting is Finished?

'Dream Catcher'                9x12               pastel                  ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 Art is never finished, only abandoned.

I came across this old demo painting (below) this week and it called to be finished. It was part of a lesson on seeing big shapes. I don't remember if I thought it was finished at the time but even if I did I could see now that it really was not finished. It was abandoned. But now with years of painting practice under my belt I could see what it needed.

This brings up a question we often ask do we know when we are finished? And if art is never finished then aren't we in trouble?   
A better question is How do we know when to stop? The usual answer I hear is that we should stop when we have said all there is to say....or when we don't know what another mark will add to the painting.  Stop. 

Have a look at the original version of the painting. I am pretty sure that several years ago when I painted this I thought I was finished. I had made my point about simple shapes and I like my bold marks. But as we paint and learn and grow we also change. I looked at the painting now with different eyes. I felt that it looked unfinished. It needed more clarity. I have learned to slow down and be more deliberate about final marks. So I gave myself permission to work on it and now the new version pleases me more and I knew it was time to stop. 

Who knows how I will feel about the painting after a few more years but for now it tells the story of the shapes of the desert and I don't know what more I would add.  That was an interesting exercise and an eye opener about the idea of finishing a painting.

1 comment:

Verna Puglisi said...

Thanks for bringing up this subject. I have been wrestling with the problem of when to stop and also what to add or leave out. As you stated your solution for today may be different in the future.
Of course, it also demands a careful assessment of whether I have accomplished my objective. Did I capture the essence of what inspired me to do this in the first place? Or did I stray from my original intent. Sometimes the beautiful accidents are worth saving.
So the answer seems to be what I feel like right now!