On Finishing a Painting

I just finished this large, 30 by 40 inch painting. It depicts a fiery sunset over the ocean. My friend took the reference photo. He works on a ship and gets to witness some stunning sights from the deck.

A painting of this size would usually take me 4-10 hours depending on the complexity. But this one only took an hour.

By the end I found myself itching to do more work on it, if only to push out the time. I figured surely there were more strokes to be made. But there weren’t. More strokes would have only muddied the idea of a fiery sunset and vague shadows.

There are two lessons here. First, there’s no arbitrary number of hours you must work on a painting before you can call it done.

Second, improving as an artist is not about making more good strokes. Rather, it’s about removing the unnecessary ones, leaving only the essential. As you improve, you will be able to finish a painting faster, clearer, and with a better result. It’s a nice feeling.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott