If you’re like me, you find it more than a little difficult to know when to stop painting a painting. Everything needs just one more tweak. More often than not, you find you like your painting less after you have fiddled and fussed with it, than you did before you decided to make those final “improvements”. It’s all too easy to overwork a piece.
Why do we do it? Is it a fear of letting go of the work? Is it a fear that the work won’t be good enough? Do we think that if we stop too soon, it will look unfinished and therefore unacceptable? I think it might be all of those things.
To avoid the arrival of the Futz-Fest, I have tried a few things that work for me:
– Set a time limit to the work. That means you have to be done when the clock runs out. Unfortunately, if you paint quickly, there is still a tendency to overwork the canvas and lose some of the freshness and vitality of the brushwork or linework and to muddy the colours.
– Use big brushes (or knives) at the start, to block out the work and define the larger areas. It amazes me that most of the time, most of my finished painting is still what I rendered in these first broad stroke moments.
– Use tiny brushes (or knives) at the end of the painting. This makes futzing on a large scale too time consuming and difficult to be possible.
– Deliberately run out of paint. If you have no more paint on your palette, you’re done.
– Stand back from the easel and look at it as if you were a visitor to a gallery. It actually stops you from obsessing with tiny details, when you do this.
– Have the audacity to say “to heck with it – it’s a masterpiece just as it is!”
These techniques can be adapted to other artistic media. In music, for example, blocking out means getting the basic arrangement of the song down first. Worry about tweaking the sounds later. When tweaking, only fiddle with the really obvious things. When you stand back from the music, does it sound good enough?
You get the gist.