When is a painting finished.. and other musings

As I come to the end of a painting, this question always rears it’s ugly head: what else does it need?
The one after that I hate even more: couldn’t I have done a better job with this or that section? Is it a good painting? how good? My philosophy here is that I did the best I could do with what I have and who I am right now. I move on to another painting. This becomes very apparent to me when I look at work I did a few years back. It was the best I could do at the time. End of story.
You cannot ‘make’ a masterpiece. One day it may happen or it may never happen. It is a waste of time to think ‘this is it, this time I’ll do it’.
Doesn’t work.

Lack of decision and endless fiddling with the current painting is a harmful thing. You have to learn from the mistakes you can spot at the end and make amends, but the energy must go into a fresh effort! Learn to use your time wisely.

A word about talent: to any artist who has slaved over years to acquire his skills in painting, it is the most irritating thing to hear that your ability is just a ‘gift’. Talent is the first step, you have to have it. Absolutely. But nobody who paints amazing paintings has done so from day one. They put thousands of hours into it. There is no formula in art that will not break down as soon as the effort behind it ceases.
A good analogy is athletics: do you know how many hours pro figure skaters or tennis players practice every day? No need to answer that. Talent may help get you to the elite, I don’t dispute that. Even if I practiced tennis 8 hours a day from now on, I would never play like Roger Federer. I know that, I just don’t have enough talent.
But to say as artists we just have ‘this gift’ is ignoring how much work we’ve put into it.

Of course nowadays there are many who put more effort into their social media page instead of their art, but that’s another blog post. Or not.

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18 thoughts on “When is a painting finished.. and other musings

  1. Jody

    I am one who is glad you put some time into this blog. I keep these ideas you post in the back of my mind, helps a lot, thank you for this sharing. Jody

  2. Lisa Pope

    Oh yes, the popular question we are often asked, “how long did it take you to paint that?” I often respond with, “years of drawing and painting to get here and about another 6 or 8 hours for this particular painting.” LOL. It does seem like people often perceive that artists can just generate a painting on a whim, as though no preparation went into it.

  3. Phil Kinsey

    You’ve reminded me of a quote,”talent is something they say you have once you have gained a skill.” Regarding observations of the public, no one questions a plumber or a chemist, people respect that the professional knows more than they do.These same people feel entitled to an uneducated critique or opinion of a painter. It requires MORE than personal taste to truly judge a painting. Thanks Frank I enjoy and follow your work!

    1. frankeber Post author

      Very good, Phil! Thanks for that note, it is so true! I like the analogy with other professionals…glad you like my work!

  4. Pat Rodell

    Very informative blog. Many times I have tried to correct mistakes and regretted it later. Practice daily and just go on….

  5. Janette

    Thank you for this post , I appreciate your insight and will try to apply it to myself , have a nice day!

  6. aHorseForElinor

    Those are some very solid stone walled buildings. Thinking England? Just guessing, based on the color of the stone walls. Beautiful end result! (Although the horse and jumping fences were replaced with cows… 🙂

    1. frankeber Post author

      LOL, you saw that! Somehow I knew you might spot this. Yes, there was only one horse and it was about one km away, so I just put cows for a change! It’s in France, Dordogne River valley. Thanks for stopping by!

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