Everyone has different ideas about how to know when a painting is finished. Here's what seems to work best for me...

A painting is completed when it's no longer in my possession. Until then, it's open for adjustments and changes, even if it's in a frame under glass (just ask Deb Ward, who so expertly framed, and unframed, for me for several years.) While it may not be good advice to give others, it works for me.

This second photo shows the ORIGINAL PAINTING as it was completed tttt(before any changes were made) and posted this past January. Occasionally it would sneak out of storage and let me consider making adjustments to it. Finally it was matted and displayed in the studio.

Then Lydia returned to class from her travels and commented that this particular painting was not one of my best ones. It made me think long and hard about what could be done to make it better.

Because this was my first attempt at using masking tape on YUPO with fluid acrylics, I'd fallen in love with the possibilities of the process and set aside the importance of tweaking a good composition. Finally it was time to make amends and find a solution to make this a more dynamite painting that would compel the viewer to enjoy my impressions of the antiquity of Venice.

By comparing the earlier version with the 'finished' one, you can see that stronger oranges were added to parts of the wall and that the upper part of the painting was muted and darkened, thereby allowing the pure vibrancy of colors to stand out stronger in the focal area. The street light and its post also have more value changes to help add more interest there, especially as the iron 'arm' work moves across the dark of the window and in front of the dark doorway. The flatness of the white wall was darkened in the foreground to lend more depth, and the doorway was enriched with deep colors. The value contrast between the white wall and the brick was minimized at the bottom edge of the painting, too, by softening the edge of the white wall. In a few select areas, a pale wash of teal was touched in for a cool temperature surprise and to help make the oranges vibrate more.

There's a bit more drama and sense of atmosphere now in the painting with places that say 'look at me' and places to rest. Both excitement and quietness dance together, and the painting shows more about how I felt when I was there. The earlier painting let my eye float out of the top of the picture, but now my eye moves through the whole painting, finding more surprises along the way.

There's certainly a time to stop and step away from the painting. Going back into a completed painting can be tricky. In the past, for me, it was a tough lesson that took years to learn --- that trying to make it perfect with just one more brush stroke would simply kill the life of the painting. Many of my pretty good paintings ended up in the trash because of trying for that perfection. Yet, this painting needed help. Thank you, Lydia, for your 'wake up' comment. It made a wonderful difference.

"JOURNEY" Fluid Acrylics on YUPO 14 x 25"

One of my favorite quotes comes from Michael J. Fox. "We can strive for excellence, but perfection is God's business." Great advice for any painter. It's an art not a science!


Joan Sandford-Cook said...

Much more striking with all those added warm colours and soft green tones. It was so good to read you consider any piece of work open for amendment until its gone to a new home - as I often do the same. Might cheat and copy your idea to post a work I have played with on and off for over a year after it came back from a show where it did not sell - but from what I gather neither did anything else!!!

RHCarpenter said...

The things you changed did make this a better, more visually interesting painting, Sandy. And isn't it great that you can see what needs to be done and do it - without overworking or not knowing where to go from "here." I think that comes from your good eye and your years of experience...and your willingness to keep working on something to make it better.

Teresa said...

I love your theory of when a painting is finished, not for chickens though :), but since your changes always seems to change for the better it even looks like there's no risk in it.

Anonymous said...


I like how you handled the changes "reads" as a cohesive piece before it seemed broken up it forced my eye out of the picture now it keeps my attention and allows me to enter into the picture.

The fluid acrylics on yupo do you find them to work just like watercolor paints any pros or cons or basically the same?


Sandy Maudlin said...

Thanks, Joan, Rhonda tereasa and Paul. The fluid acrylics are very similar to using regular watercolor since I dilute them to look like watercolor. Since they hold fast to the YPO once they're dry, They can be glazed over and over...a great benefit as far as I'm concerned. On the other hand, they are tricky to remove once they're dry. A little rubbing alcohol does the trick.

Christiane Kingsley said...

I liked this painting before, but like it even more now. It is indeed a lot more dramatic. I especially like how you darkened the top left - this darkening is something I find so difficult to do! I appreciate how you shared your thought process with us.
Thank you.

Kathy said...

You made all the right choices. Your painting is wonderful!

Chris Beck said...

Amazing to see what a few tweaks will accomplish! The changes you made to this painting bring it vibrantly to life! Thanks for sharing your process on this.

Brent Perkins said...

I've neglected visiting your blog. There are some impressive paintings here!

Billie Crain said...

Sandy, don't you love friends that aren't afraid to tell you the truth. The original version looked fine at first glance but the tweaked version is so much more exciting. You gave it what it needed.:)