Thursday, April 4, 2019

When Is an Artwork Finished?

How to know when a painting is done

Artists are known for asking this. I've read it as a question people write to magazines and 
heard it in other circumstances. It's not surprising, really.

We grow up being told lots of "supposed to's" and "not supposed to's". Everything is already
created and ready to buy. We're given instructions on how to assemble things or operate
things. The decision was always made for us. Some of us (like me) had to come to realize that, when creating things, how we do or make it is how it's supposed to be done! It can actually be daunting when the path hasn't been cut for us already - no "supposed to's" to guide us!

"Seabreeze Sunset", w/c
I was originally disappointed in it,
but now I like it.
And then, at some point we find ourselves the creator or author of some creation - a book, a recipe, a painting, ... Hell, furnishing and decorating a room even counts! We've all done one or both of those. Yet we didn't have any quandary over whether the room was finished. Of course, we make adjustments as we continue to use them. 

But do artists make adjustments on a work of art? You bet they do! But then there's our old question: When to stop and call it "Done"? You can continue to adjust it  forever when you work in opaque mediums like Oils.

So this seems to involve 3 factors...1) your tastes and style; 2) your technical knowledge and skill; 3) your message. 

Why do I say that?

We look at "taste and style". Keeping in mind that we are letting go of "supposed to's", we now have the freedom to do what pleases us art-wise. WHEN YOU STOP IS WHEN YOU LIKE THE RESULTS. 

But even that is prone to doubts of how satisfied you are and whether you can make it better! So the temptation to work it and overwork it remains.

Number 2 says, "technical knowledge and skill". Now you've got new criteria. Does it have nice shapes and value pattern? Does it have good balance, unity, harmony? Is it too random or too predictable? Is it entertaining? (For reference on how I judge the technical merit of my paintings, see "Design Principles I Use and Recommend")

"Reflection, Study", w/c and pastel,
lending a thoughtful mood. The
bird-shaped water was unintentional.
Now we come to 3,"message". Though I mentioned this one last, it is probably the most important.

In your last creation you intended to say something, right?  You grabbed that pencil, crayon, paintbrush or pastel stick to say "sunny day", or "family", or "flowers", etc. Even that simple doodle you made while on the phone had something to say, and even if it was only to yourself for amusement. 
It is no secret that art is communication.

I don't think any artwork can ever be made without having something to say first - abstract or not!

And, like any message, how well "technically" and how well it fits your "tastes and style" will determine if you're hitting the mark to your standards and satisfaction. The better we get technically, the more our "satisfaction" will be on point.

Who knows, maybe "Artist's Block" is only being at a loss as to what to say, even if being modified by other factors. 

Alright, so, given these 3 factors, there is only one more thing to do... Decide!! ...
I hate to say this (not really, I love saying this), but, the painting is done when you say it is!! ...But it is probably better technically said as, "It's done when the statement has been made". 

Obviously it needs to contain and be monitored by the 3 factors above to any degree if we are to be satisfied with it by your standards - and that's a good thing!

Well, I'm guilty of overworking my paintings, being a hopeless perfectionist. I certainly don't wish that upon you by any means. But I do wish to you better results from less confusion on the above question. 👍 

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