Finishing A Painting: It's Not Magic

Yesterday I spent four hours finishing a painting for a show—finishing a painting that some would say was already finished.  I’m not really complaining since I am delighted to have been chosen for the exhibit, but the task is certainly not glamorous and likely not one that a collector or even exhibit curator thinks about (unless they are also an artist).

By finishing a painting I don’t mean putting leaves on a tree (not to negate something I can’t do well). What I mean is checking the sides for marks, sanding a few spots, repainting those, repainting again when I miss one, waxing, then finally wiring (and making sure the wire is heavy enough for a large painting on board).  Our social media posts seem to only show us smiling with several brushes in our hands and painting with bright colored oils or acrylics —not furiously trying to match a paint color or see through dust spattered glasses with hair tied up on our head.

Finishing a painting is a pretty mundane task, and I’m willing to bet not many artists have assistants to do this. But it must be done and is part of completing a painting for a show or collector. Sometimes I fuss and worry too much over highly textured areas, wondering if I should smooth them down more. But everything most of us do is by hand so it will probably never look perfect. Of course, this isn’t the only routine task we perform. That’s for another blog.

But sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t show more “real” work pictures (no I’m not brave enough yet) or at least put our glasses and work cloth in the frame (that I can do).

It’s the Little Touches That Count

The painted back side of the cradle.


My Mother always used to say “it’s the little touches that count.” She taught me that if the blouse was a little old, you could change the whole outfit by wearing a new scarf that would catch the eye. I think the little touches also make a difference when it come to your paintings.

Have you ever thought about how the back of your art looks. Some people don’t really have to worry much about this since they are really neat. I’m not. Mixed media is always messy and even taping off the back doesn’t always work for me. So, I’ve taken to doing a little taping and the final finishing with paint.

I think I was reminded of this in a marketing workshop several years ago. I had never thought about it before, but then looking carefully began to see some pretty unprofessional work including my own. I realized if I was a buyer it would make me wonder if the artist really cared about their work.

In my case, it creates another whole step in the process. But, it means I can ship paintings that I am proud of, that I know reflect my care of the work, and most of all that show I value my work.