The Process: Is it Finished?

 
"Swan Song" 9x12"encaustic on panel

"Swan Song" 9x12"encaustic on panel

Beach 24x24" acrylic on canvas

Beach 24x24" acrylic on canvas

Hours, days, months.  When is the work finished?  There are pieces that I return to even a year or so later that I can finally resolve.  Then again there are times where there is magic involved and I know just when to put down the brush or add that last moment within the painting.

Just this past week I pulled out an old encaustic painting that never really worked.  So I melted parts of it down and began again.  I worked strictly intuitively and made some quick decisions.  It was the last work of the day.  Upon heading out I grabbed it to bring home.  This is something I do when I am trying to make decisions.  I hang or set it in my home to see if living with it helps to decide weather it is complete or what my next step will be.  I often take pictures of larger paintings so that I can review when I don't have direct access to it.  (This picture taking trick is great to help solve compositional problem as well.  By taking it to a flatter dimension it makes it easier to see areas that aren't quite working.)

not title yet.. 18x18" encaustic on canvas

not title yet.. 18x18" encaustic on canvas

This encaustic work for me had just started so my intention was to set it up in our dining room and hope to make some next step decisions.  To my surprise the moment I propped it up on our bar it was very clear that it was finished.  I got lucky that I had to pause and didn't get a chance to over work it. 

There are beautiful moments like this but more often than not, there are many reworks and additions before I am satisfied with the end result. 

When I come to the painting with a realized idea of what I want it to be it can be even harder to bring it to fruition.  The work changes so much in the execution as I wrote about in my previous post, that I don't recognized what it has become.  My reference point doesn't matter anymore it is it's own thing now.  When this happens if there is a particular feeling I am trying to convey I sit with it to see if I have reached the point where it fits this emotion or message. 

It seems that this living with it or letting it be is a big part of deciding if it can stand on it's own or needs a bit more execution.  This part of the process can be frustrating and even disheartening if the painting isn't working.  There is a sense of failure or head banging problem solving to coax it back.  I try to take this as literally part of the process.  If a painting fails I have at least learned from it and it can still spawn more ideas.  I usually enjoyed bringing it to life and putting the medium to ground.  It is never a complete loss. 

I usually have more than one piece I am working on at a time.  If I hit a wall then I walk away for a bit and move to the next thing.  I don't want to waste studio time if I can help it. 

When the decision is made that the painting can live of it's own there is a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.  There is joy in breathing life into something and I try to appreciate it each time.