The last blog post and comments made me question my own question. I asked artists in my interviews, “How do you know when a painting is finished?” There are so many good answers. Then there are the artists that I didn’t interview - Picasso said “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.” DaVinci said “Art is never finished, only abandonded.” I’m starting to go this route now. I always thought I just knew when a piece was done. It was a point in time where everything was figured out and nothing else was needed. The final task and ceremonial end was a signature in the right hand corner. No questions asked, bottom right, if there is a signature, it’s done. That has slowly changed. My signature began to move around. It became obscure and out of sight, mixed in with all the other brush strokes. It was still last but it did not need to be seen.
Once the piece is signed, that’s it. It is to be admired, sold, and to be forever a mark in my oeuvre. Good or bad it was painted as if it were in stone. I was capturing the careful accumulation of brush strokes. If the type, the figure, or the eyes were a little off it didn’t matter. It was signed. It was done.
Not sure what changed but that theory is out the window. It seems I can’t keep my hands off anything that is left lying in the studio. First it started with an older painting that I just wasn’t fond of. I thought it worked at the time but after being passed over by galleries and sitting in storage, I took it out placed it in the sun and let it melt. Then I brought it in the studio and helped it a bit more with the blowtorch. After all it wasn’t stone. I’m painting in wax! I melted it and used the new melted abstract background as a new starting point. It’s about as close to abstract as I’ve gotten. I had so much fun! Anything that was left in storage found its way to the front yard then to the torch. It has and continues to fill my palimpsest series.
My newest attempt at finishing a finished painting came last week. When I received a painting back from the gallery. They had the painting for over a year, so many close sales but never a settled deal. I couldn’t wait to get it back. I already had ideas on what I was going to do. I unwrapped it, took out the spray paint, the torch, and fired up the palette. I was going to get to work or get revenge. Between us, it may have been a little of both.
So here it sits, transformed for the better or worse. Better I hope, because I am not going back. It’s been published in books, seen by countless collectors, traveled through many states, shown at various galleries, and now is ready to go out again into the art world.
In conclusion, I’d have to say a piece isn’t finished until it’s sold. But I did hear that Jeff Koons asked one of his collectors for his balloon dog back because he didn’t like the color.