Making a Painting: Part 3 – Nicholas Wilton – Ep 113
December 20, 2023
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
In what may be the final installment of making a painting for my daughter’s birthday, we’re going to be talking about finishing. Or at least, what the beginning stages of that process look like. Join me as I talk about the delicate balance of refinement and letting go, knowing when we need perspective, and holding an idea for a painting while remaining authentic to ourselves and the process.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Crafting the delicate balance between refinement and letting go when finishing [1:56]
- Holding an idea for a painting while staying authentic [12:59]
Find the balance
The art of finishing a painting is a delicate dance of balance. It’s about recognizing that pivotal moment when the refined strokes start to obscure the challenges and adjustments that still need to be made. It’s when we must pause, step back, and gain objectivity. Yet, paradoxically, it’s also a time for bolder moves—a willingness to risk more and push beyond the fear of ruining what’s already there. It’s crucial not to overly attach yourself to a piece and resist the temptation of liking it too much. I’ve often missed the mark with a conservative finish because I was trying to protect elements that became too precious.
Working on the background first allows for an organic evolution within the painting. I want it to become an influencer of the foreground instead of a mere backdrop. The finishing touches involve delicate, sensitive marks that almost feel unintentional. It’s a process of letting go, of allowing the painting to be something beyond my complete control. The goal is to create a harmonious world within the artwork, where all marks converse and coexist seamlessly. It’s a continual back-and-forth process of checking for weaknesses, ensuring that every element speaks to one another.
Know when to walk away
An underrated aspect of finishing is knowing when to walk away. The closer we get to the end of a work, the more perspective we need to finish it. It’s easy to get too involved in the refinement process without taking a step back. Without a break, we start to focus solely on what needs to be “fixed” instead of listening to the direction our work (and our soul) wants to head on the canvas. A tell-tale sign you need to pause is a lack of energy. When the energy from a painting wanes, it means you’ve stopped making meaningful changes. You need time and space to get the creative juices flowing again. And when you return, many things that bothered you about the piece fade into a sea of renewed purpose as you pick up the paintbrush once more.
Hold space for authenticity
Authenticity is one of the most powerful tools in the art-making toolbox. This is especially true when making commissioned work. When we create something for someone, it can be a challenge to separate the work from that person in our minds. The key is to focus on the feeling that person evokes for you. For instance, I’m making this painting for my daughter, and so many of my choices are informed by who she is to me and the qualities I admire most about her. Taking an abstract approach like this to commissioned work frees us from the prison of literalness that can constrain the creative process. Nobody can dispute how a thing or a person makes you feel. And it’s from that place of authenticity that we want to start our work. Listen to this episode for more artistic insight, and check out the video on our YouTube Channel!
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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.