March 2021: Knowing when to stop painting.

aisling drennan in her art studio talking about knowing when to stop painting

I often get asked about knowing when to stop painting as it is an element of creating that plagues many artists.

I think knowing when to stop painting is something you learn over time but to give you an idea see the below image. It’s from early 2019 & I’m working on an art commission for a client in America. I thoroughly enjoyed making this painting and if I’m honest, I was a little slow to hand it over to the courier. This is because I considered it a ‘marker’ painting in my portfolio of work.

During the making of it, I felt fully in control of what I was doing and trusted myself to make the right decisions. I experimented, took a couple of risks and when finished, it felt complete. However, that feeling isn’t always present on completion of a painting, it comes with maybe 1 in every 10 paintings which again is why this painting was a little more special. See this finished work ‘Steadied Thinking’ here as a print.

aisling drennan in her art studio talking about knowing when to stop painting
Working on a commission in early 2019 at Delta House Studios.

Knowing when a painting is finished can read a couple of ways. It will ‘click’ like what happened with the above situation but also you know from experience when to put down the paintbrush and let the painting dry. This is learned from practice, I can recognise that moment whereby if I keep working on this I’m going to ruin it because it will become overworked, probably with muddied paint marks which will deplete the painting’s sense of balance and composition.

A good tip for getting the timing right on a painting

An artist friend once compared knowing when a painting is finished to knowing when you like someone- it sort of hits you, you smile and you don’t want to take your eye off the person….  It’s a relatable analogy I’ve borrowed a couple of times to describe how to know when a painting is finished!

Useful Mistakes, 2017, oil paint & oil bar on canvas 60x60cm SOLD

Above painting ‘Useful Mistakes’ was one of the more rarer paintings when I knew exactly when the painting was completed and if I fiddled with it anymore, it would be over worked. When I added the final red central brush mark my friends advise hit me- I liked it, couldn’t take my eyes off it and left the studio feeling very happy that evening.

It takes time to understand your painting practice, to learn how to gage its rhythm and how the paintings fit into this. Once you do understand the rhythm, its easier to read work and feel when a painting is done.

Thanks for reading, Aisling x

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Aisling Drennan is an award-winning abstract artist with a London, UK-based art studio.

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