How do you know when you are finished? This is a common question for artists. I’ve heard some say, well I leave it 24 hours and if I still like it, I sign it. I wish I could do that.
If a painting is still hanging in my studio, I continue to look at it and wonder how it can be improved. Recently I’ve learned I probably need a checklist before I sign something. I can get so caught up in texture or the way the colors sort of mottle together that I forget some bigger things until I am reminded.
This week I was reminded by an article in Palette Magazine written by Skip Lawrence, an artist and art instructor I had at ISS last spring. In the article, “It’s the Big Things,” Lawrence said that the one characteristic that separates really good art from the rest is predominance, what he calls “a lot to a little.”
So I went back to one of the paintings I thought was finished, but still kept nagging me. It’s one I posted, “Natural Turn.” I asked myself these questions: What is predominant in this painting? What is it that sets the feeling? Also, where do you want the eye to focus, and what are you trying to communicate?
To answer some of my questions, I went back to my “journal layer” and did a bit more writing. The predominance I decided was movement, and I had used texture to accomplish this. But I also asked, if this were the case, how did I keep the viewer’s eye moving around the painting instead of falling off at one of the turns.
I did two things that I believe strengthened the painting. The tiny bit of Yellow Ochre had been faint before is used on the left side to draw your eye back to the right (kind of like falling into your dance partner’s arms). Then I attempt to reinforce my focal point with a small bit of collage and Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold.
Am I finished? For now. But I won’t stop learning and growing, so my paintings—well, they should reflect that growth. I hope they will.