Finishing Art (Pt. 2)


Untitled, 36 x 24, Acrylic on Canvas

It’s hard to let go once you start painting. How do you know when to just keep it simple?

Here are a few strategies:

  1. Stick to the vision/palette/draft
  2. Ask (Listen to) a passerby
  3. Give yourself a deadline

(1) Stick to the vision/palette/draft. Many artists start out with an inspired color palette. I try to stick to 4 or 5 (not counting the various hues) – for example: green – blue – white – gray – gold. Or rose – gold – peach – mint. Any more and I tend to muddy up the painting, or it starts to resemble a galactic conglomeration of supernovas (more on that later). Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra structured, I even sketch out what I want. Or compile a collage from magazine cut-outs.

When my painting starts to look like nothing I started with, generally, I’d say that’s a good thing – creativity sparked into a full-blown fire. But it’s also worth giving your original thoughts a chance to live.

(2) Ask (Listen to) a passerby. Get someone else – literally, a fresh pair of eyes – to assess it. Since I plan to sell my art, it’s important to hear what other people think. Especially since art (aesthetics) are so subjective, I am always fascinated to hear people’s reactions. As I painted this piece, my neighbor walked by and proclaimed “I love it!” While he often sees me paint, and is always encouraging or thoughtful, he rarely throws out the “L” word, I took it as a sign to rein in my efforts.

(3) Give yourself a deadline. The deadline can be anything – I used to create 30-min playlists for small commissions. But as I began to work on bigger pieces, I noticed that it usually took me around three days (anywhere from 3-4 hours per day) to feel like a piece was “finished.” Turns out, this is more of a baseline, especially as my style and techniques have now evolved to include much more pouring (and subsequently, waiting for paint to dry). And, picking a day helps – when that day comes, I turn in my painting (or turn it to the wall). By turning it to the wall, I won’t touch it for a few days or weeks so that when I’m ready, I’ll look at it again with fresh eyes.

These are just a few of my strategies. That said, my goal is to be able to feel intuitively when something is done – and I can let it go.


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