Last night I had a friend ask me,
“How do you know when a painting is finished?”
I told him that is the $64,000 question.
It is the artist’s age-old dilemma.
My savvy husband, who has listened to hours and hours and years and years of me yakking about art stuff, answered,
“The piece will tell you, right?”
And I said, “Yes, that’s right.” In fact, many artists keep their finished pieces sitting out in their studios for awhile, to see if they are indeed finished or not.
Looking at them over a period of time gives you additional perspective and lets you live with them for awhile. That way they can “talk” to you and let you know if they need anything more done to them. Glancing at them as you walk by them every day gives you a fresh opportunity to see if anything jumps out at you.
I have accidentally found out that taking a photo of my piece gives me a perspective that I cannot get by just looking at it. I don't know why this works, but I can just see things in the photo that I can’t see in real life. It’s weird, but it works for me.
I also told him that some people would say that they’re sort of never finished.
In fact, Leonardo da Vinci wrote,
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Ross Ketcheson said, “It takes two people to paint a painting. One to paint the painting and one to hit him over the head when it’s done.”
And artist Sioux Jordan says, “My paintings tell me when they are finished -- it’s a two way conversation.”
“Paintings don’t really end, they just arrive at interesting places to stop.”
“I know I am finished when I have nothing else to say.”
“I know I am finished when I am ready to sign it.”
Picasso said that knowing when to stop is just as important as knowing how to paint.
Now that’s a tricky situation because sometimes, if you keep fiddling with it, you can ruin the whole painting. I imagine some artists, just because of their personality, could be more prone to overworking a piece than others.
Robert Genn wrote, “80% finished is better than 2% overworked”, implying that it is better to quit while you’re ahead. Resist that temptation to “just do a little bit more” to it.
But my short answer to him was,
“When nothing about it bothers me anymore.”
I imagine writers have the same problem. When is their manuscript finished? Kinda like my little blog entries. I could re-read and re-edit for ages, but sometimes I have to let it go and just publish it anyway. Like this one. J
Lucky Dog ♥