How to tell if a painting is finished

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

This is a tricky one, but it is not impossible.

You are an abstract painter and you struggle with knowing when to stop working on a painting? Or maybe you even stop too early, when the painting isn’t done yet. How do you know if a painting is complete?

Well, this is a very personal decision. It has a lot to do with your own vision on a piece, but there are some key points to remember while working on an abstract piece. At least for me, these points I go through with each of my pieces. I can only speak about abstracts, because that’s what I do and feel most comfortable with.

During the painting process I always remember to stand back and get into the role of the viewer and not the painter. You have to at least stand so far away from the painting, so you’re not able to reach it with your hand. Otherwise you’re standing still too close to your work.

There are time I sit or stand half an hour in front of the piece and just staring at. Letting the thoughts wander while observing very closely.

  • Where do your eyes wander on the canvas?

  • Are there enough values in colors?

  • Does your painting guide outside of the canvas? (That’s not a good sign, you definitely need to work a little more on it)

I always take photos after every painting session, most of the times I even print the pictures and glue it in my little process book. I’ll write what I like about it and what I want to work on the next time I paint. This not only helps with reflecting your work, but also allows me to dive deep faster whenever I work on this piece the next time.

It is always very helpful to set a piece aside and come back to it a day or maybe a few days later with fresh eyes.

Another rule I follow and this is possibly the biggest one to consider. As long as you’re not comfortable with it, it isn’t finished.

Ask yourself: “Would I want to live with this piece in my home forever and still love it?”

If the answer is yes, then congrats maybe a few tweaks and you have a finished piece.

If the answer is no, then go over the key points again.

I hope this helped you even a little.

Talk to you soon