How do you know when your painting is finished? This is a common question posed by artists at all levels. Sometimes a painting goes smoothly and I accelerate to the end in a type of creative euphoria. Other times, I’m not so confident and I dabble here and there, wondering if I’m heading toward the best end.
Fortunately, I’m a member of the Atlanta Fine Arts League, an exclusive 30-odd member group of painters who meet to critique each other’s work. I look forward to these critiques and work extra hard to make sure I have a couple paintings to share. Each month we meet at a different member’s home and bring a dish to share, potluck style.
After much chatting and catching up, we settle down in front of a lighted easel and turn our expertly critical eyes on each canvas. This process has
helped me find my way out of several creative blocks. Oftentimes, just seeing my canvas in a different setting makes weak points stand out. Simply being further away from the canvas for a change helps as well. And of course, the comments from the members, both good and bad are assessed and contemplated.
I don’t always agree with everything suggested since everyone has their own style preferences. However, there are always some gems to keep in mind for later. One thing that comes up is value. What looked dark and distinct in my studio suddenly looks pale and muddy. I often feel like I’ve used a wide variety of colors even in a “white” painting, but our critiques show me that I could add at least one more dash of bright color.
If you don’t have the luxury of having a local critique group, you may want to carry your piece to a friend’s house. Set it up on the mantle, walk around the house and then take another look with fresh eyes. You may be surprised at what you see.