When is a Painting Finished?

Picasso supposedly said that a painting is finished when it’s sold. In the movie about Jackson Pollock he was asked, “how do you know when a painting is finished?” Pollock answered with another question, “how do you know when you’re finished making love?” I have been working on, and posting about this painting for about five weeks! I worked and reworked each figure and face while gradually developing the city scape in the background. I gained insight into my working process with the realization that, as much as it would feel more comfortable to have the composition completely worked out ahead of time, that kind of practice would not be satisfying for me. I seem to need to start by just getting the seed idea out there in all it imperfection, and then bringing the pieces together and working out the details, learning about and imagining various elements as I go. I’ve reached the point where I look at the painting and there is nothing more that I am drawn to do. That could change as I continue to look at it over the next weeks and months – or at least until it sells. Here is a 2 minute slide show/video that documents the painting at its various stages.


7 replies
  1. Msockeye
    Msockeye says:

     I thank you for your honesty,regardless of weather i like the painting or not, its YOUR process. as is all of us painters. Keep painting David ! I like “Pollacks” answer because only the individual really knows. only the “artist” knows when a painting is finished ,rather than an audience , or critic, or scholastic :rule” says its done.  ask yourself…”at what point do you feel satisfied of your painting?” and ” by whos standards do you accept to determine when a painting is finished?”

    • David Gordon
      David Gordon says:

      Thanks MG, You are absolutely right. Worrying about others’ reactions dilutes the creative process. The feeling of satisfaction with your work is an important indicator – and what feels better than finishing a piece and really feel satisfied with it?


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