Friday, 3 February 2012

Paint Party Friday 47*5 ~ when is it finished?

My "lollipop" trees are finished. Or so I think. At least for the moment. (And I promise this is the last time I'll post them here).

While I liked the patterns and colours, I just wasn't 100% happy with it. It didn't feel right yet. So I added a layer of white over it, but it was still not right. At the end, I used some oil sticks and generously went over it all, adding a creamy layer while allowing some of the patterns of the layers of acrylics underneath to show through.

It's hanging in the living room at the moment, and I keep looking at it, adding/adjusting a little bit here and there, and thinking about whether to add some shadows or not. It's not always easy to know when a painting is finished.

I went to see the documentary film "Gerhard Richter Painting" at the cinema (watch a extract here) in my Christmas break. Richter often lets his paintings hang for some time between each step, before deciding what to do next, letting them evolve, and often changing them completely in the process. At one point, the film maker asked ihm to explain when /how exactly a picture was finished. He tried very hard to give her a satisfying answer. She wanted a straight, logic explanation, and he simply couldn't give it.

I could understand his struggle. When is a picture finished? In my opinion, or rather personal experience, there are two possible ways to finish a painting:

  1. You paint until you come to the point when it simply doesn't need even one single brushstroke anywhere anymore. It simply is just finished, and you know it. You hold it up, look at it from a little distance, satisfied, smiling, and you say to yourself "yes, it's finished".
  2. You simply don't know what to do next. You pick up some paint, you are about to put the brush on to the canvas, then you hesitate. No, not there. Maybe here? No. Maybe with another colour? No. After a while, you just put down your brush, look at your painting long and hard, shake your head, and mutter to yourself, "well, I think it's finished then".

Sometimes, the second can result in the first, after some re-working or over-painting after some time. But at the end, you can't really explain when a painting is finished. It's a process, which sometimes can take weeks, months, until you come to the point when you just know, one way or another, that it's finished.

How do you know when a painting is finished?

Happy Paint Party Friday!


  1. This is something I have thought about a lot, but I don´t have one answer - I have many! I can add a few possible ways to the list:

    3. I think I am finished and let the painting sit on the wall in our house feeling happy, and then I wake up the next morning and realize that it isn´t finished after all.
    4. I ask my family. They are not really interested in art (at least not my husband) but they can see the painting with fresh eyes and point out parts that doesn´t fit.

    This is what comes to mind right now, but there are probably a lot more...

  2. lovely techniques and the colors are speaking to me ....happy PPF!!

  3. Love the way your lollipops have turned a painting ever finished.....mmmmm good we can always see ways to improve it as we continue to learn about art. Happy PPF, Annette x

  4. I love your Lollipop Trees piece. Turned out just wonderful. The soft colors are amazing and it does look as if the color just glided on. It's excellent the way it is. How do I know when a painting is done? Sometimes when I have the brush in my hand and my hand doesn't know where to go next, to me that means it's done. tee hee. Thanks for sharing your beautiful trees. Have a wonderful weekend. Happy PPF!

  5. Such a good question and one I struggle with myself. I love the Miro quote: "a work is finished when there is nothing left than annoys me."
    Love your trees!

  6. I think this is beautiful. the colours are gorgeous and the effect that the oil sticks has added is just wonderful, it makes it look aged somehow but in a really good way!

    For me the easiest way to see what else needs fixing about a painting is when i take a photo and look at it on my computer screen-I always notice things that I couldn't see looking directly at the painting for some reason. Then I'll allow myself some "tweakage" time to fix little bits before I have to make the decision that it's enough and anymore will ruin it!

  7. delicious colors and fabulous depth. I hang "questionably" finished works in plain sight and just wait and see if I'm motivated to keep working on them after a few days.

  8. I loved seeing the trees progress through all your posts. How do I know a painting is finished? The same way I do when I cook meat. Guess & put it back in if it turns out it was still raw. Nit very scientific but it works for me.

  9. Beautifully done.
    The layer of white makes the colors even richer! :)
    Happy PPF!!
    Mixed-Media Map Art

  10. It looks nice! I know I'm done when I like it, there have been times when I coloured right over it and did something completely different because it just wasn't 'right'!

  11. Beautiful painting, love the colours! I never know when to top either! Valerie

  12. Lovely painting. I also have difficulty sometimes knowing when something is finished. I love the addition of the creamy color.

  13. I'm having many of the sames thoughts as to "is it finished" and I think for me the answer is no - but for you... Looking Great!! Those colours are wonderful together.

  14. Looks finished to me, I don't think it needs anything else at all works as a complete & balanced composition - I like it the way it is :)

  15. Very nice! I agree that it's hard to tell sometimes when a work is finished. Sometimes you just know, but other times, it's harder. The instructor in a workshop I took once answered that question by saying "when someone wants to buy it." :)

  16. I really, really like the addition of the red details. The creamy white added lots of depth too. I think it's great.
    Yes, often a photo does show you something that you don't see when it's right in front of you, but if it was mine, I wouldn't add another brush stroke.

  17. What a gorgeous piece...beautiful and magical..I love the color palette and the energy of your work..absolutely beautiful!

  18. glad to hear I'm not the only one who keeps changing her mind and retouching or changing paintings. Love the look of this one. Gorgeous!!

  19. Yes that's always a tuffy, wondering when to stop on a painting. This is beautiful, I love it!!!!

  20. Gorgeous painting! Yummy colors! I'm always struggling with whether a painting is finished or not. I love this one. :-)

  21. Just stopping by to say hello and share some PPF love!

  22. Personally I think your loli pop trees are from another land and they draw me into that place. I too work on a piece hang it on the wall and during the day study it from a far to see where I am gong next. Something my grandmother taught me when I was very young and her student.
    Thanks for the movie info too.