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How do you know you are done?

Wall of paintings in my studio

Every single one of my paintings, at some point in their creation, gets asked the same question,  Are you done?

A question I often get asked is, How do you know when is a painting is finished?

That isn’t such an easy answer!

With any painting or project I do, I’ll inevitably reach a point where I can’t stand to look at my piece any longer.  I’ll feel way too close to make any more decisions.

Sometimes I’ll even wish I had never started the project in the first place.  (I become a little jaded!)

Step away from the canvas and no one will get hurt!

That’s exactly what I need to do- put a little distance between the painting and I.   I need to shut off that part of my brain and join the rest of the world.

When I come back with fresh eyes I’ll be greeted with one of two scenarios:

1. If the painting has a solid foundation- good composition, well- balanced, playful colors, etc.- then it is almost complete.

2. If I’m still still displeased and find unresolved issues, then there’s work to be done.

Regardless of the scenario, my next actions are to take a picture of it and then turn the painting upside down.


A picture of the picture

Taking a digital picture of the painting is an excellent way to find discrepancies.

The beauty of digital cameras is that it gives instant feedback.  A photo of the painting is naturally smaller on the screen and, in a sense, whittles the painting down into its bare essentials.  The composition, colors, and other design elements will be more pronounced and, therefore, will show glaring discrepancies or hold its own.

Turning a painting upside down is another way to fool the eye into seeing the elements of the painting apart from its entirety.  It’s all about seeing the painting in its parts rather then in its whole.

From there I’ll pick up my paintbrush again and work on clarifying areas that are weaker then others.  I’ll often turn the painting on either side as well.

When the painting is turned back to its original position, I may have to work on refocusing it from the larger issues I’ve found while photographing and turning it…

Or, it may just need a few tweaks.  A few dabs of paint here and there to unify it.  If those dabs become too numerous and random, that’s often a good sign that I’ve come to the end.

Ultimately, I have to make the decision and stick with it.  I have to be, The Decider.  I have to trust in my own intuition, and believe in my own instincts.

Once I have determined that a painting is complete, I never cease to be a little giddy.   I feel a sense of accomplishment with every painting that I finish because I put so much of myself into each one, almost as if they are my children.


Each painting possesses the pride and joy I feel in creating them.

So when do I know when a painting is finished?  When the pride and joy that I’ve put into my art has completely saturated it.  My hope is that this joy reveals itself to the viewers and connects them to my work.

How do you know when your creative work is done?  How do you feel afterwards?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Have a Wonderfully Creative, Decision-Making Week!


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