When is my painting finished?


Before we answer the question, “Which paints to buy, so many to choose from?”,  I thought we would tackle a more universal question all painters ultimately ask.
And that is … “When is my painting finished?”
Beginning students and established oil painters all face this same dilemma . Just when do you stop painting on your painting?

Here are my top 6 recommendations of questions to ask yourself about your painting.

  1. Check your drawing for accuracy. Look at all the objects and make sure the drawing is as accurate as possible. Check that all buildings, and building elements like windows, doors, and roof lines have the correct “one or two-point perspective” lines and that everything is consistent. Perspective is one of those things that viewers notice immediately. Similar to facial relationships in portraits.
  2. Can you improve on the overall composition? Sometimes nature needs a bit of help to make the perfect painting composition. This is where your “artistic license” comes into play. Look for dull and drab large color areas that might be improved by adding additional shrubs, trees or rocks to break up the area. You don’t want a large area to look like it is one big piece of construction paper having the same color. The goal is to make every part of the painting interesting, not just the main focal point or area.
  3. Check your color values. We have covered this in a previous post, but it’s worth repeating. Make sure there are no pure colors, like red and yellow, in distant objects. Distant objects should be lighter and bluer and more blurred. Look at distant objects close to the sky and remember that this intersection should be close in values. Lighter mountains should be touching the lighter sky above. Looking at your focal point, do you have sharp contrast in values and color to draw the viewer’s attention. Usually your focal point/area is the place where the “darkest dark is next to the lightest light”.
  4. Monitor your edges, soften when in doubt. This goes back to values and not being a slave to copying your photo. Most beginner painters always paint the distant mountain range, or tree line way too dark. When you ask them why, the answer is always the same, “because that is what I see in the photo”. Yes, cameras are designed to increase contrast, but they are lying to us as painters. You can prove this to yourself by observing the same distant tree line against the sky from direct observation. Walk outside and really look at things receding in the distance.  They do in fact get lighter, bluer and softer. Often the best thing you can do is take your Universal #6 round brush, your finger, and blur the edges between two objects to lower the contrast.
  5. Stop Early! It’s better to have a painting a little underdone, than overdone. More damage can be done in the last 5-10 minutes of a painting, by adding that “one last perfect thing”. Resist the urge and stop painting!  Beginning artists often lay down one great powerful brush stroke, and then remove all that greatness by fussing with it after the fact. Jerry Yarnell, a great acrylic painting instructor on PBS television, calls it “licking the painting to death”.
  6. Sign it and sell it! Now that you have checked the drawing, composition, color values and edges, it’s time to sign your painting. Most collectors want to see your signature on the face of the painting. Some artists use thinned out paint or they carve their name in the fresh thick paint showing the raw canvas below (my preferred technique). Whatever your style, please remember to leave room for the frame. Allow 1” below and 1″ to the side of your signature, so that the frame does not cover your name. Finally, sell that painting! The world is waiting to own your latest creation so don’t hide it in the garage. Share it with the world on Instagram, your website and Facebook.Next time we will tackle the subject of:
    “Paint Buying Pitfalls – A recommended Shopping List for the Beginner”

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Michael Rodman – Oil Painter – Art Instructor.