The studio door blog

Finishing a painting - trial or triumph?

I'd say there are at least six kinds of endings ....
You’d think finishing a painting was the highlight of the week, month, year. The reward for all the effort, all that problem solving, all that paint turned into dirty water, money and more money sloshed around on paint and yet more paint. Not to mention the hours spent working away in your eyrie when you could have been usefully learning an obscure language or teaching yourself to cook properly. But here you are, the last stroke in place, you step back and all that's to be done is wash the brushes, get the kettle on and settle down with a cup of tea to bask in the halo-glow of self-satisfaction...... Well hardly. In fact not a bit of it. I’d say there are at least six types of Ending, each with it's own variants. For example

1. Hell’s teeth. It’s no good, throw it in the bin, don't waste any more time on it. I can't paint. I'm a failure aka I'm a failed and useless human being, probably forever.


This number one went in the bin after many rescue efforts

2. Well, that was a long hard slog up the mountain and I think it's OK, as in it'll do. (Never, EVER trust this last phrase ).

3. Just need to put in those finishing touches, the deft highlight, the perfect mark-in-the-bottom-left-hand-corner-Bob's-your-uncle-done. (SO rare).

4. Right. Is that it? Yes? No? Maybe. Hmmmm... yes , we'll say yes. Or no ..... maybe it’s better upside down ...


Findings: a number four.

5. That was easy-peasy. What a joy this painting lark is. Got it in one no problem. It's a bright, shiny world and I'm a wonderful artist and it's all going to be plain sailing from now on. (Hen's teeth, but it does happen.)

The Drove Road

The drove road: a glorious five

6. OK. Not much to do now, half an hour should put this one to bed .... usually followed by 3 days of fiddling at the end of which it becomes clear those vital, last strokes weren't necessary anyway.

I could go on .

In my own process there's usually a mountain summit during the execution, a moment of delicious excitement when, for a precious couple of minutes, I can fly. By far the commonest peak comes about a third of the way through. By this point I've made a pile of interesting marks, got some colours going and I can step back to see where the piece might go. And it's that moment, whenever it comes, when I find possible directions stretching out before me, that is the high point, literally a viewpoint and seeing something I've never seen before.

So the first third of the piece of work is about preparing and hoping for this moment, the remaining two-thirds is trying to realise that vision and not squander all the brilliant possibilities. I don't always succeed. Every artist has their own pattern but it's surprising how many enjoy the early stages of a work more enjoyable than the end.

On the bookshelf
Drawing projects

Lots of interesting exercises to expand the range and scope of your drawing but equally juice-making are the many good quality images of drawings by a whole range of artists. This book has certainly provided me with food for thought over the last few years. Published in 2011.