artist know painting finishedThis is one of the most commonly asked questions for artists, but can be one of the most difficult to answer.

How can an artist tell when a painting is completed, and doesn’t need to be worked on anymore?

For myself, this is difficult to answer.

Many times I reach a point where I just know that a painting is finished, and immediately begin working on something else.

At other times, when I return to a painting, I suddenly realize that the painting does not need additional work. I think this is because I’ve had some time to distance myself from the painting before returning to it. At other times, I see something that needs to be changed in a painting I thought was completed. Then there are paintings that I’ve overworked, and wish I’d stopped painting much earlier.

I leave this question for all of you to answer.

Please leave a comment below. For those who do comment, please include your name and artist website. As usual I would like to credit you. I will be posting the best answers to this from Facebook, Linkedin, etc. within this article… below.

Please check back regularly to see new replies to this question. A new section with this and similar inquisitive articles will soon be added to the sidebar as well.

How do YOU know when a painting is finished?


I think that its true maybe that when you distance yourself from it and come back and it looks complete, than it is done. Or if you try to do something else with it and you realize the changes you are making are so minuscule that you cannot really go further.

As I reach the end stages of a painting, I am constantly running back in forth in order to see it from a distance as well as up close. Nothing like a little aerobics with your painting! As for 'taking it too far', I tell my students that the only way to learn when to stop is in fact to take it too far a few times - and so they shouldn't feel badly about that. All part of the learning experience. Cheryl O

Answers from Facebook

ahahaha it's the question of 1000$!!! ...right now i've just understood that when I'm sick of it, i must stop, If I look at it again after a while I can always see something to do or change or add.....if I feel sick again than put away and that's it! never look back! - Sanna Michela

When it's sold. - Jason Gaffney


Answers from Linkedin

As a wildlife artist, photographer, researcher and commercial art designer since 1980, I paint the majority of my wildlife art in watercolors. To me, I think ,I just reach a point in my mind, and with my eyes, that they just tell me, STOP. I spend so much time studying wildlife in their native habitat, that I know when I reach a certain point, to just stop painting. If you’re not careful you can actually overwork a painting, actually add to much to it.

You can see some of my art and photography, at my Jim Turlington Artist page on Facebook (its new), but there are a number of things on it. Also if you want to read a recent article about what I do, go to ,then click on the Blog, to read "Bringing out the Colors of the Backwoods - Jim Turlington".

"...Pictures are never finished in the sense that they suddenly become ready to be signed or framed. They usually come to a halt when the time is ripe, because something happens which breaks the continuity of their development...."
(from Picasso On Art/Ashton, p. 38-39)

Post a Comment Blogger

  1. In the end stages of a painting, I constantly run back and forth in order to see it from a distance. Nothing like a little aerobics with your painting! This makes it easier to assess the large shapes and values of the composition, and whether they are working well together. As for 'taking it too far', everyone has to do that a number of times in order to learn when to stop. So I tell my students not to feel badly about that, it's just part of the learning process. Cheryl O

  2. I know when a painting is finished when I can look at all aspects of it and think, "That's it." When a painting is not finished, I have an uneasy feeling about it. Something in the composition or execution just isn't right. I might not know what it is immediately, but if I put the piece away for a while and then go back to it, the answer often comes to me. It may be something as miniscule as a quarter of an inch piece of a circle in perspective that just misses the correct oval shape. If I can put a painting away for a week, then go back to it and still have the "That's it" feeling, then I know the painting is finished.
    Velvet Tetrault

  3. I love collage work and designing. I know its finish by stepping away a few times and returning ours or sometimes days later. Many times I can feel it. I get excited and ecstatic and my eyes feel happy.

  4. I usually sign an arwork as soon as its state of conception conveys my aesthetic values. But as to finishing it, it has to stand the test of being hung to my studio wall for my approval when my eyes unexpectedly fall upon it. If I put it down right away, it is not done YET...


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