I have a painting in my studio that is close to being finished, but here’s my question: When is a painting really finished? How does an artist know when to STOP?
Joe DiGuilio presented a wonderful workshop for WSI several years ago, and I asked him the same question. His answer was, “I’m done when my wife Sharon says, ‘Joe. Step away from the painting. You’re finished.'” I think his answer was serious, but it didn’t really answer my question. To me it meant that he trusted Sharon’s judgement because she was his helpmate, his manager, and she knew his work. I also think he touched on an aspect of painting that is hard for me–and perhaps for others: I’m done when the painting can’t be improved and I’m happy with it. That “can’t be improved” thing is difficult for me.
A friend told me a story about an artist friend of hers (an oil painter) who had presented her and her husband with a portrait of them walking together which the artist painted from a photo that my friend did not know her friend had taken. He gifted them with the painting several years ago, and when he visited them recently, my friend commented to the artist that the painting no longer looked like her because she had since lost 35 pounds. The artist said, “I can fix that,” and took the painting with him back to his studio. The next time she saw the painting, she was 35 pounds thinner. My question: NOW is the painting finished?
My painting in the studio is not yet finished. I’m not usually a procrastinator–except when it comes to finishing a painting, especially one that looks like it might turn out to be okay. It takes every bit of courage and self-confidence for me to take my watercolor paints and add the finishing touches to something I’ve worked on for a while. I think I’ll like this painting. I’ve thought about it enough and painted it in my head several times. Now it’s time to finish it. This week.
Where is Sharon DiGuilio when I really need her?