So how does one know when to stop?
I often tell students that I would rather see something painted slightly wrong, but with confidence, than something painted to perfection but with a look of labored fussiness. It's just that I don't always practice what I preach.
There were a lot of really great comments and thoughts on my last post. Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and opinions on this. I'd like to borrow a few bits and pieces from all the comments to share here.
"Fuss over the details."
"messed up something that was just fine."
Seems like a lot of us have been there, done that.
"Second Wind, Spruce Head", 11" x 14" oil on board, 2008
$950. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner
Stepping away from the piece to come back with fresh eyes seems to be a common way to try and control the urge to over work.
Speaking of which, here is the other Maine painting that I started last October, but just came back to with fresh eyes to make a few adjustments. It is of the same boat, "Second Wind", that I wrote about before. Some old wooden lobster boats in Maine have a sail in the back that allows the captain to do all of the labor by himself. Steer and haul pots. Amazing! He is swinging into the same dock as in the last post to unload his pots at the end of the season.
O.K., back to the main point. I told you I get distracted.
Seeing the finished painting in your mind, before you start, is also a good idea. You need to have some sort of idea of what you want to achieve right from the get go.
Here is a good quote by Emile Gruppe, from "Gruppe on Color".
"When I paint outdoors, I've always liked to let the paint do some of the work. I go for the big effect; and when I get it, I let the rest go. Of course, I can still remember my father telling me "try taking it a bit further." But I always felt that if I did, I'd ruin the spontaneity and excitement of what I had in the first place. After all, it's possible for a thing to be well drawn and so systematically developed that the essence of the subject is lost.
Here's the important difference between tight and loose painting: tight, meticulous work can be copied- even a reasonably clever student could do it. But loose, spontaneous work is full of accident and inspiration. And great paintings done in this manner can never be duplicated- the painter himself doesn't know how he got some of his effects. All he knows is the he was outdoors. Something happened to him. He saw differences; he felt the shadows and the textures- and put them down. Such painters see their pictures even before they begin them- as if in a dream. The subject hits them hard. When they finish, the picture is better than nature, but never as good as what was in their minds eye. They worry about it, of course- but they also know that you can never achieve perfection. There's never and end to things. It's like the universe: where do the stars end and heaven begin?"
Two more things that I pulled from the comments on the last post.
"Wasn't it Picasso who said, "A painting is never finished--it simply stops in interesting places." "
"Everyone else has to judge the painting without the benefit of our internal dialogue and the hindsight of seeing the better versions that happened before we finally stopped."
Very good points.
I think that in the end you just have to be happy with where you leave off on the painting. If I am not 90% satisfied with how the piece looks I will cull it out and not frame it and show it. That 90% is an estimate. I shoot for 100%, but I realize that I sometimes have to settle for a little less.
That's it for now.