I am often asked the question – When is a painting finished?
This quote from Jidda Krishnamurti is my jumping off point for thoughts on this subject.
‘There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination and finish education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.’
The piano – rapid watercolour/gouacheEach painting we work on (including preliminary sketches and warm up exercises) is connected to all the work we have produced in the past and any work we will produce in the future…….Everything is interconnected.
Unlike many jobs where there is a clear beginning, middle and finish – a painting can take minutes, hours or years to complete…….and even when the painting is not being worked on – the seed of it’s idea is still sprouting information, even if at a subliminal level.
I painted a ground over an old watercolour to make this image…A great way to recycle old paintings that haven’t worked.Something to consider is that striving for perfection can sometimes cripple the creative process.
As artists we seek to attain technical prowess, however it’s important to remember that warming up, playfulness and risk taking are all part of the exploration and creative process. Always try to work on more than one image at a time. This can prevent overworking the painting and producing mud, particularly when working with watercolour!
When the question is asked – ‘where do I go next with this painting?’ It is time to stop. Move onto the next painting and invariably at a later date the answer will be revealed to your initial question. Paintings communicate with us if we allow enough space and time……. When working on canvases….it is customary to turn paintings to the wall – sometimes for long periods. This helps an artist to see the painting in a fresh light at a later date. Any work produced in the interim feeds the artist with new information, which is often relevant to the original piece. Regardless of the end goal…rapid sketches in any medium, along with honing observational skills help an artist to focus the mind.
Many years ago, I gave a workshop in Wales where a group of us walked the Brecon/ Monmouthshire Canal for one day. Every fifteen minutes we stopped and sketched for fifteen minutes.….Initially, this was daunting to some of the participants….however, by the end of the day…people were producing quick sketches, filled with information.
The point of this story is that sketches had to be finished within fifteen minutes – which again was an excellent way of focusing the mind and also removing the desire to achieve the ‘perfect’ sketch.When we focus on the journey and not the destination – we are freed from restraints which might otherwise interfere with the creative flow. The joy and learning will be found in the doing, and answers will be revealed in their own good time.