How to Know When It’s Finished – Nicholas Wilton – Ep 86
June 14, 2023
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
Knowing when a painting is finished is both an art and a science. There are measurable aspects of finished work, but there are also intangible things that are difficult to discover when first starting out. Join me as I take an in-depth look at finishing, the criteria for finished work, and how to finally put your brush down and move forward.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Unpacking the struggle to finish [1:24]
- What is the criteria for finishing? [12:34]
- Knowing when your work is done [22:14]
Make it anyway you want
Starting is hard, but finishing a painting can be even more of a challenge. We put so much pressure into what finished work should look like that it’s easy to never finish. Thankfully, you can reframe how you think about what you need from a piece for it to be done. Sometimes we’re really hard on ourselves and think it has to be this monumental thing. We make it unobtainable, stressful, and devoid of fun. Here’s what you have to remember: YOU are ultimately in control of this process. You’re setting up the whole thing: How you think about it. How you feel about it. How much energy you bring to it. It’s all an inside job. You are creating the thing so you can make it any way you want.
Are we there yet?
A big part of finishing is understanding the criteria for finished work. There are so many ways we can quantify this, but one of my favorites is the loud and quiet conversations that happen on the canvas. The loud conversation happens when your work can visually yell at people to come over and take a closer look. Practically, this looks like a painting’s relationship with light and dark. From across the room, you should see a pattern of both that is exciting to look at from an abstract perspective. Then there’s the quiet conversation. This one can happen as close as two inches from the canvas, where the subtleties of your work come alive. This is a conversation that begs the audience to go deeper. Not just into your work but into themselves. When you mix these conversations together it elevates the work and gives it a sense of completion.
Go too far
The art of finishing is learned by stopping. Sometimes you’ll stop too early. Sometimes too late. But you’ll always learn something. And that is the entire point! We can’t learn from our past work if we don’t have past work to refer to. There’s beauty in ending a chapter and starting a whole new one. In my experience, we often don’t go far enough in our work. We start out strong, meander through the messy middle, and end up spending way too long trying to make it work in the end. My advice is to use the messy middle to be bolder than you normally would. Take risks. Go TOO far and allow finishing to be where you pull back and refine things. It’s better to go over the edge and pull back than miss the mark by miles. Listen to this episode for more on finishing your work!
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.