Creating any artwork is often a long journey. With any journey there is a beginning and an end, but how does one know when to stop?

When planning any artwork, not only does the image appear along with statements, notes, sketches etc. in one’s visual diary, but during this time a vision of what we want it to look like will ‘surface’ in our minds. We know what we want to say, and therefore once we’ve said it, it’s finished. That sounds fine in theory, but in practice it’s rarely smooth sailing. So many things can change (or go wrong) while we are in the process of creating the artwork.

There are those who don’t pay much attention to (careful) planning and rely on a spontaneous approach, others let the artwork ‘develop’, some constantly make corrections. There are many ways and many journeys taken in the pursuit of creativity and all have their merits.

There comes a time when we decide that our painting is finished. This decision is reached for a number of reasons: we’ve had enough, we don’t want to do any more, we consider that there’s nothing else needed, we want to destroy it, it matches our artist’s statement or our aims.

If we’ve had enough or are tired of our painting then it’s time to put it away out of sight for at least 12 hours. I also apply this rule to work that I have deemed to be finished. Working on a painting for too long makes one too familiar with the artwork and you need to take a break. Stop looking at it and do something else. Come back the next day and take a fresh look and immediately you should see if it’s finished or it needs some tweaking. This method works for me. Even if I’ve declared a painting ‘over’ and ready for framing I always ‘hide’ it and take a second look after a day or two just to be sure.

Paintings that you ‘find’ that are several years old are a different matter and require careful consideration. What you were doing and thinking then isn’t the same as where you’re at with your art today. Tread carefully as these paintings need to be completed as they would have been when they were created. A new approach on an old painting usually doesn’t work.

B A PUMPKIN SEEDSb a seaside still lifeLately while sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ in my studio I came across a number of drawings that I considered unfinished. I have include 2 examples, both with ‘BEFORE’ and ‘AFTER’ photos. TOP: Next Year’s Pumpkins – one that I started a couple of years ago, but never finished until now. BOTTOM: Seaside Still-life – I painted this about 3 years ago and considered it finished until I ‘found’ it last week. Both paintings are now ready to be framed and I’m pleased with both of them and glad that I took the time to finish them. 



About artkleko

artist, art curator, art teacher, art judge, art critic
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2 Responses to IS IT FINISHED?

  1. Knowing when a work is really finished is an issue for me too. I use the same methods you do including covering up a work so that I recover from over-looking fatigue. I have been known to undo framed works, do something to the drawing, and sheepishly take the whole lot back to my framer to re-do the frame. Just very rarely this happens…that the ‘fault’ shows itself weeks or months after completion.

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