Wulf's Webden

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Finishing

Part two of yesterday’s rant. I think I have made my feelings about overworking clear — no need to overwork them — so onto the subject of finishing. Lachri suggested that one piece of work should be completed before moving onto the next. By contrast, I’m definitely from the “lots of irons in the fire” school. I’m in good company, too. Here’s a quite well-known chap called Pablo:

Woe to you the day it is said that you are finished! To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul – to give it its final blow; the most unfortunate one for the painter as well as for the picture.

Pablo Picasso, of course. I haven’t read the source directly but, although it turns up on lots of quotes sites on the Internet, I did find it recorded as being found in p. 265 of The Life of the Creative Spirit, by H. Charles Romesburg (Xlibris, 2001) which does appear to be a genuine book.

I think this is fascinatingly linked to the subject of overworking; the schools of thought seem to be that you can’t overwork a piece but you can call it finished or that you can never truly finish a piece but you can definitely overwork it. In my own practice, I certainly find that it makes sense to stop early on a piece. Sometimes you return and can see what needs adding and sometimes it just needs to be framed and hung. Not infrequently, a work in a medium like watercolour reaches a point where you keep it for reference or to reuse the other side (good paper isn’t cheap) but it is only finished in the sense that you can’t see anything that will improve it. I also like having multiple ideas on the go because they cross-fertilise; sometimes a problem in one is solved by a discovery while trying to do something different on another painting or sketch.

And that, I think, is where I will finish this little rant!

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