The art of finishing a painting evaded me for several years. My perfectionist streak kept getting in the way. There was always something to tweak, something not quite right. Gosh it was frustrating!
Then I started looking at my progress photos and I realised that I was taking some of my paintings too far. Overworking them until they felt super tight, I was loosing all that wonderful, loose energy.
I've overworked so many paintings that now my 9 year old daughter feels the need to intervene. When I bring a painting in to our lounge room to ponder, she is quick and firm about telling me when it's done or if I have permission to keep working on it! Such is life with a headstrong daughter!
Recently, to help even more with my finishing process, I wrote a list of questions to ask myself when I come to the end of a painting. These questions aren't just about whether the painting is finished, they are also about whether the painting has the elements that I really want to see in my work. It's more of a personal checklist than a general checklist - not sure if that make's sense?
I've been calling it the 'Signature of all Things' as it's a bit like having a signature style.
So here are the questions and some thoughts on each one.
Is it nature inspired?
The natural world is my favourite source of inspiration. Maybe that will change but for now I am most happy creating work that is nature-based.
Is there contrast? A nice tension in the painting - push and pull / light and shade?
The contrast between light and shade is very important in my work. It reminds me of the quote:
“Where there is light, there must be shadow, where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow....
Is there a story or a message coming through?
For me to call a painting finished I have to feel something. It has to mean something to me. It's not important that other people see that meaning, in fact I love the idea that people bring their own meaning to a painting but I need to have my own special connection with the piece.
Is it uplifting? Inspiring? Hopeful?
Some of my paintings have a sunny disposition, others are more contemplative but they are always painted with an underlying message of hope. Often this is shown by a passage of light within the painting. Sometimes it's words that I etch into the paint. It can even be the title of the painting, but there is always hope.
Is there breathing space?
Breathing space is something that I need in my life. When I feel overwhelmed I seek it out. I take regular walks, I run myself a bath, I lie on my bed for a few minutes to just breathe life in and then breathe it out. Just as I need it, so do my paintings. The space between things is just as important as the things themselves.
Are the colours vibrant yet soft? Is the colour palette conveying the mood of the painting?
This is a very personal one. We all have our own colour preferences. I love colour but I love my colours to be a bit soft, a little muted down. Often I mix natural pigments such as raw umber, yellow ochre and burnt sienna into other more vibrant colours to get the colours I love. I also prefer my paintings to only have 3-5 main colours.
Is there flow?
I love flow. Whether it is drippy acrylic paint or gorgeous washes of watercolour, I just have to have it in my work. I adore both the process of adding flow and the outcome.
Is it interesting, do I want to know more? Are there patterns/little details that may not be seen at first glance?
In searching for my style, I've explored many different types of painting but I always seem to come back to including marks/pattern and imagery in my paintings. I just love adding those little details. Often people that buy one of my paintings comment that they are still finding new things in the painting well after bringing the piece home.
And that's it for the moment as far as questions. Creating a personal list of questions is a great exercise to do to help with finishing paintings and also to help develop and understand your painting style.
Well that post took a lot longer than I thought, only just got it published before midnight! So it's definitely night night from me Xx