How do You Know When a Painting is Finished? | Fine Art

By Jeff Dillon | December 19, 2017 | All Posts

There’s a saying that every artist knows: a painting is never really done. You can always add something, change something, or find some new detail to fix. But at some point, you have to call it quits and say that the painting is finished. So how do you know when that time has come?

Adriaen van Ostade. Selfportrait. 1663. Gemäldegalerie. 

For some artists, it’s a simple matter of following their gut instinct. They’ll work on a piece until they feel like it’s ready, and then they’ll stop. Others might have a more specific process in mind, such as adding one final touch or making sure all the colours are perfectly blended.

There’s no precise formula for knowing when a work of art is finished. For some artists, it’s a matter of putting down their brush when they feel they’ve said everything they need to say. Others prefer to work until they reach a technical perfection that can only be achieved through hours of practice. And still others take a more intuitive approach, following their gut instincts until the piece feels complete.

#118 – Mountain Harbour
Original Work By Jeff Dillon
Original Size: 60″ x 30″

Personally, I tend to go through multiple layers before I’m satisfied with a painting. I’ll add and remove elements, experiment with different colour combinations, and generally tinker until I feel like I can’t do anything else without ruining the piece. I can tell when I’ve reached the point where adding any more would just be overkill. Only then do I step back and declare it finished. I’ve put in all the effort I can, I have gain more or new experience and it’s time to move on to the next challenge .

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. Sometimes I’ll finish a work and then come back to it later with fresh eyes and realize that it needs more work.

It’s like with anything in life – you know when you’re done. And for me, that’s usually when I’ve gone through multiple layers and can’t really add anything else without ruining the piece. So I step back, take a look at what I’ve created, and say to myself: “Yep, that’s it, it’s done.”

This approach might not work for everyone, but it’s served me well over the years. It’s helped me to create some pretty amazing paintings that others can enjoy for many years to come.

#212 – Windswept
Original Work By Jeff Dillon
Original Size: 41.6” x 66”

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