When is a painting finished?

My practice

Usually I work on a series of paintings.

When I start a new painting (let’s call it painting “A”), at least the next one (“B”) is roughly planned. If the conversation with painting B gets too loud (meaning my interest in B gets bigger than my interest in painting A), I try to wrap up painting A. So I finish it to 80-90% and put it away to start painting B.

When all paintings of the series are at the nearly finished level, I go through all of them and apply what I learned throughout the series and give them their final touches. This is because I am in explorer mode all the time. I am searching for opportunities to push the painting further, trying new tools to abstract a certain area, adding a new color and so on. If I find a new and exciting direction, I want to see it on all current paintings.

Some general thoughts on finishing a painting

  1. I am not afraid of stopping a work as soon as I have made my point, even though large pieces of unpainted canvas still show through. One reason for that is the “concept” of non finito. I love the different stages of the painting process being visible in the final work.
  2. Especially when I work on big canvases, I do not finish them in one sitting. I apply the first layer on painting A and let it dry, then I do the first layer on painting B and C, then I go back to A and do the second layer, back to B and C for the second layer and so on. With this practice, multiple paintings a developing at the same time.
  3.  When looking at an individual painting, I ask myself: Does adding more paint make the painting better? If not, I stop and sign that thing.