When is a painting finished?

When is a painting finished?

As a working artist who occasionally teaches, one of the frequent questions that I hear is whether I think a painting is finished or not.

Since the relationship between artist and creative piece is so personal, so is the decision to finish the piece. For myself, I find that I do more looking and less mark making, the further along I get in my painting process. When I get to the point where I cannot think of one more thing that I can do to improve upon my painting, that is when I think it is done. 

Abstract artist, Claire Desjardins, painting in her art studio.

Simple to say. Much harder to put into practice.

Maybe a better question is “how do I not overthink this?”. I reiterate: be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that art and creation can be a healing process. Allowing oneself rest and stoppage from time to time is just as important as the hard work involved on the production side of things.

Sometimes savouring quiet satisfaction must simply be enough.

Not every piece can be a masterpiece and just because it isn’t quite what you originally had in mind doesn’t mean it isn’t good, or hasn't filled a void of sorts.

We are our own worst critics. 

It is difficult to impossible to view one's own art in the same way that someone else might, especially after staring at the same brushstrokes and shapes for endless hours. When asking oneself “is this it?” and searching for missing pieces that might not be there, recognize that this is the time to walk away. Grab a cup of tea and go look at something else - anything else. Let your brain recuperate for a while.

When returning to your painting, you will look at it with fresh eyes. If it makes sense (such as an abstract painting), flip it around. Look at it from various angles. Doing so may give you new ideas on how to make this piece (or the next one) even better! 

Or, the painting may be finished... the decision is yours to make!

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