When is a painting finished?
Watercolor artist Caroline Buchanan writes that a painting is finished when it comes into balance. When everything is there for a purpose and working together, and when there is not one thing (stroke, object, color) that is not contributing to the whole. That’s a tall order, but something I want to strive for each time I paint.
Or is it more complex:
By contrast, Jo-Anne Sanborn wrote an article listing a number of specific criteria to help the artist determine when a painting is finished. Here’s the list:
1. Is the underlying abstract (drawing) strong and defined?
2. Are the weights (lights and darks) and colors of the painting balanced in an appropriately asymmetrical fashion?
3. Are the shapes of all negative spaces varied and pleasing?
4. Does the eye have visual paths to follow, keeping interest on the canvas?
5. Can you find any walls or other impediments to the eye that shouldn’t be there?
6. Are transitions to and from various parts of the painting seamless?
7. Will the viewers’ eyes return to the focal point after moving around the canvas?
1. Is a color strategy clearly defined and executed?
2. Do either warm or cool colors predominate, with the other supporting?
3. Is each hue consistent throughout the painting?
4. Is any one color too prominent at the expense of the others?
5. Are there any jarring or popping colors that should be eliminated?
1. Does the technique or style fit the subject matter?
2. Does the color palette support the intended mood?
3. Is the light source consistent?
4. Are the cast shadows consistent with the light source?
5. Is the feeling of the painting consistent across the entire canvas?
1. Are the materials used of good enough quality to stand the test of time?
2. Are the painted forms drawn correctly and visually believable?
3. Is the perspective correct and consistent?
4. Has the paint been applied in a uniform and deliberate fashion?
5. Is the painting attributable to the artist through a definitive signature or style?
6. Is there a final protective coating (appropriate to the work) sealing the painting?
This is a fairly comprehensive list and well-worth considering. How do you determine when your painting is finished?
Posted by Katharine A. Cartwright