When is a Painting Finished?

“Park Guell”
watercolor 24 x 18 inches
When is a painting finished? The famous question for which there must be many, many answers has been asked by tens of thousands of painting students. If you begin a painting 8 years ago, stop and put it away, take it out this month and add the touches it needed badly . . . . is it considered a painting done recently? Or should it be considered a painting done 8 years ago?

I sure don’t have the answers to that question . . .or the one before that. I find that the more experienced I become (read as ‘older’) I can see many more ‘needs’ that an unfinished painting has. Perhaps it all has to do with the spirit of what you are trying to communicate. In this piece, it was the ‘jazz’ of the shapes and the location of Park Guell in Barcelona. I painted much of this painting with my great friend Montserrat at my side. . . .both of us talking, visitors coming by and making comments . . .great friendship in a great place busy at work with making art. Mind you, I said making art . . . .not copying what we saw. We were finding ways to make shapes fit together in interesting ways and to subdue and emphasize different things. Add patterns and textures where they weren’t in order to create interesting and compelling relationships among the parts of the painting.

I really did just finish this painting but a few weeks ago. And it really was in my flat file for nearly 8 years. It had been waiting for me to grow enough to see what needed to be done in order to make a successful painting. Because of the time spent with Montserrat (Muntsi) and the location, I could hardly scrap it 8 years ago. This painting says so much more to me than ‘a place I have been.’

Isn’t that really the reason we paint? . . .to capture a spirit? A feeling? A mood? I suppose the painting is finished when we look at the painting and can feel that spirit.

If you are interested, click on this link to see images of Park Guell . . .designed and built by Antonio Gaudi.

7 thoughts on “When is a Painting Finished?”

  1. Wow. I can honestly say that my heart lurched when I saw this painting (in the best possible sense!) It is a feast for the eyes.

    What you say about the personal growth needed to finish a particular painting makes good sense to me. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights.

  2. Thanks Mike for this “special article”. It says so much in just a few works. You’re a great comunicator! Appreciate your contributions greatly.

  3. Hi Mike,
    I was contemplating your last posting about shape, and the stunning painting, when I looked and you’ve posted another! I think this piece captures the wonderful, flowing shapes of Gaudi’s park; sort of like syncopated rhythm.

  4. Mike, what a good lesson and exquisite painting. I love visiting your blog. The only way I know my painting’s done is when someone else has it hanging in their house. Miles Batt said it’s when we loose interest in them, and I’ve got plenty of those that actually have never been finished.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  5. This painting certainly looks finished – it’s stunning! I love the way you created a composite design from Gaudi’s fantastic shapes. I believe you might be onto something – eight years later you have developed your art to a point where you can finish successfully.

  6. I saw this painting last week at the CWA workshop, and it was my favorite of the ones you brought. I did not have a chance to talk to you about it, but it evoked Barcelona to me, one of my favorite cities. Now I see it was in fact Barcelona and Gaudi that inspired the painting!
    Wonderful workshop!

    Anne Jacobson, CWA Workshop Publicity

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