Work in Progress – Finishing the Painting
After I’ve filled in all of the obvious gaps and gotten past the worst of the hard part, the next question comes up: is the painting done yet? What more does it need?
Well, there’s the famous quote (famous amongst artists, anyway): “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” (Leonardo da Vinci)
I knew an artist in Boston who caught so much flak from critics about his paintings looking unfinished that he wrote his artist statement about how much he likes the raw unfinished look. (It sounded a bit defensive to me.)
It’s up to the artist to decide. There’s no right or wrong answer. It depends on what you like.
Yeah, it sounds simple in principle. In practice, however, it’s another thing altogether. It can be an agonizing decision. I might like a painting as it stands, but then I’ll wonder if it might be even better if I just add a little more? It’s scary because sometimes when you add more the painting loses its sense of freshness or spontaneity. It’s kind of like gambling. When do you walk away from the table?
“Overwork” is a word you’ll hear artists use when they feel that they’ve ruined a painting’s charm by laboring too much over things like small details. I do worry about overworking my paintings (although small details are not so much an issue for me). In my case, it’s more about diminishing returns. For example, I like to have bits of the original red background peeking through here and there, and if I overwork a painting the red tends to get completely covered. So one big question for me is how much of the red do I want showing.
In the case of this particular painting, I decided to let just a little more of the red background show (slightly more than my “usual” amount). The painting felt balanced and I liked the effect, so I decided to let it be. I could have worked on it more, but I’m not sure I’d have been any happier with it than as it now is, so I’ve declared it finished. And I did sign it.
I’ll post more about this painting (with a clean photo) now that it is really finished.