Jungle Fire, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 10"w, 2013 #40
Just a very quick update on this piece which I have dragged along for almost a year, and finally finished during this weekend. No, I have actually not procrastinated on it -- some pieces come easier than the others, but this is not one of them. I would layer another wash on it every now and then, and look at it after a couple of days, feeling it still needed something -- slight adjustment of color temperatures, a little detail to modify the jagged edges left by masking fluid, etc. And finally, when I am looking at it today, I realized IT IS DONE.
When I first started painting I never thought finish a piece is this much work and involves this much pondering -- I would select a good reference photo and when the painting looks quite like the photo I know it is done. But the more I paint, the more I realize it is the artist's aesthetics instead of the snap of a camera should dictate when and how a particular painting is finished. It can be as sketch or realistically detailed as you, the artist, is happy for it to be. The line between a finished painting and one not quite yet suddenly becomes much more blurred.
Sometimes I only realized a painting has passed its finishing point after I have put a couple more strokes and realized I just overworked it. ("An artist knows an awful lot -- but he only knows it afterwards", says the all-wise Paul Klee.) Sometimes I think it is done and frame the painting, only to take it out later for further adjustments. There is not an iron-cast standard, but more of a feeling that different layers and strokes are finally coming together into a beautiful, coherent whole, a melody instead of a collection of music notes.
Hopefully, as I continue working, one day the blurred line would become clear again...
How do you, my artist friends, decide that a painting you have labored over is done?
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