Recently I received an email from one of my readers asking when is a painting finished? He himself is a hobbyist painter and struggled with knit picking his work often fixing what isn’t broke.
I told him to take his work as far as his technical ability (skills) and knowledge of painting would allow. Set it aside maybe a day or two and come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Also holding it up to a mirror can often highlight mistakes, since you’re getting a different perspective by looking at it in reverse. If you see something that needs adjustment, then adjust it. Alternatively you can have someone else, perhaps another artist give it a critique. After any changes move on. Often the vitality of a painting can be killed by being overworked.
For myself I finish a work somewhat intuitively. But what are some of the factors or mental questions that I consider? Here are a few and it generally revolves around the visual impact of the painting and have I achieved what I intended for the painting whether it be one of my detailed realistic paintings or one of my impressionist pieces.
I ask myself is the composition still holding up? Does something distract or call too much emphasis away from my center of interest without leading me back to it. I don’t want to lead my viewers eyes off of the canvas into the corner of the frame or onto the wall. Are the colors and values correct? Could it use more or less contrast?
As I told my reader, I do the same; I take my work as far as my knowledge and skill will allow and then stop. If I feel I’ve achieved the goal of the painting, then I move on. Certainly as a person continues to paint and learn your knowledge base grows allowing you to paint with more confidence. However, an artist should always continue to expand and grow and there’s always things to learn and improve upon. Try new things, vary the technique. It builds your repertoire of problem solving and ways to express yourself in paint.