Saturday, December 4, 2010

Finishing a painting

Posted by Maggie

When I get close to "done" with a painting, I like to let it rest for a few days or a week. It gives me time to move away from the outdoor subject or the photographic reference, and when I come back to look at the painting again, I can judge it based on its own merits without comparing it to nature or a photograph. Usually, whatever's wrong with the painting or whatever could be improved becomes obvious after a little cooling off period.

I do a lot of demonstration paintings in my workshops, and I frequently don't have time for this last analysis and completion of a painting until I get back home days or even weeks later. In mid-November, I presented a demonstration for the Pastel Society of New Mexico, in the facility where their annual National Exhibition was held. About 40-50 people attended this demonstration, and since it only lasted a little over an hour and people had lots of questions, I didn't finish it. The photograph at the left shows what the painting looked like when I stopped.

The following day, I flew to Cincinnati to film two instructional DVDs (they'll be released in February). After returning home, it was time to prepare for Thanksgiving and a family reunion. So it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I was able to begin studying the painting with an eye towards finishing.

The first thing that really bothered me was the shape of the hill. I'd moved the position of the hill over from the photo reference, so that I could see more water. But the shape no longer worked; too rounded, too unnatural. Then, while I was happy with the foreground colors in the weeds, there were too many horizontal strokes, rather than vertical strokes which would imply upright grasses and weeds.

Finally, colors and shapes in several of the trees, including the dead scrubby trees at the far left, needed to be adjusted. At the time I finished the painting, I wasn't sure I'd like the effect of the roughed-in distant mountains, but as time went by, I decided they were just fine as they were. I didn't want them to draw too much attention, but wanted to imply that the trees on those far-away hills also displayed some fall color.

Above, Fall Palette, 16x20 pastel on Richeson Black Sanded surface, ©Maggie Price.

Now it's time to give it a few more days in the "holding zone" to make sure there are no serious problems. There's nothing worse than noticing a fatal flaw after you've framed the painting!


  1. Love the play of light and the fall colors that it lights up!

  2. Very beautiful piece, I've not worked on black sanded paper yet. I like the effect. Will have to try it.