When Is a Painting “Done”?

Kristina WIP 3

Kristina 2010

Reaching the point of being finished in a painting is probably the most important phase of the work. This cannot be measured in the same manner across any style. Some pieces may require more finishing than others. Some pursue a certain freshness that can only be achieved by not overworking a piece.

To me, a work is finished when I have settled all my personal discussions with it. Typically it has gone through the observation phase and passed. There could be some reworking but all questions have been settled. These questions have to do with structure, composition, color, and focus. Experience is what raises these questions in the first place. It is knowledge acquired over time and with experience, the “miles traveled” on the easel.

Kristina CU WIP1

Lilibeth André, Work in Progress 1

Here I have the finished portrait of Kristina 2010. This piece shows two variances to my typical approach. In this painting I painted the light side of the sitter, and I painted from a sitting and close-up view. I am pleased with the likeness and the use of color.

I also began a sketch from a different angle focusing more on the face in the shadow side. Kristina CU, Work In Progress 1, is in the block-in phase. Here I’ve done the preliminary application of color and began correcting the drawing. I will only have one more sitting to complete this portrait. For this reason, I may keep it loser and “unfinished”.

Maine Man WIP2

Maine Man, Work in Progress 2

Studio Night showed progress was also achieved in the portrait of Joe, Maine Man. I made quite a bit of drawing correction in this last session and am more satisfied with the current piece. I am closer to reflecting not just the likeness but a bit of Joe’s personality. This week I will focus on working on the final detailing to give the piece its finishing touches.

I also completed the painting of the old woman I was working on at my studio. It is currently in the observation phase while I raise and settle my discussions with the piece.



  1. Thanks for that. It’s always interesting to hear what goes on with something like that, as I have no clue.

    • You’re right. It’s not so easy knowing when to put the brush down.

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