How long can you wait before finishing a painting? UFOs = unfinished objects

Our Girls, oil, detail from 18 x 24″ painting, Karen Gillis Taylor

Now that I’m back to painting with oils after several years of acrylics-only painting, I am looking at this unfinished oil painting of our daughters with fresh eyes. It’s just not that far from finishing!

Our girls, detail

It’s been seven years since I set this painting aside. SEVEN! Even God says that at the end of seven years you must make a release. Well, I realize the biblical reference is  about canceling out the debt somebody owes you. But this might also be a good reminder to someone like me to get a painting finished or tossed out. We all need release from projects hanging over our heads, right?

The main problem I’ve identified with this painting is that the branches coming off the tree trunk are too symmetrical and so don’t look natural to me. A pretty easy fix. Not exactly worth seven years of procrastinating? I was also unsure about a few other things in this piece, but it looks good to me now, overall.  Time brings new perspective.

Our Girls, detail, a burning bush

I am also really liking this part of the painting I’m calling “the burning bush.” If a person can divide up their canvas into at least two sections that are working well, the painting is probably worth finishing, or at least taking one last attempt to do that.

Quilters often talk about their UFOs: unfinished objects. Quilts can be finished many more years after they were begun. (I have a couple of unfinished quilts nearing a four year mark.)

My friend Kim Weston is a photographer from Carmel who embellishes his photo works with oil paint on metal. He told me he simply finishes each piece all at once and then moves on. What a nice ideal. Not what I do, though. I seem to need at least a small amount of time for reflection before I say a painting is done.

The good thing about this painting I’m finally going to finish is that I’ve lost any fear of messing this one up. I’ll probably finish it in less than 3 short sessions. As long as I’ve learned more about painting in those 7 years, I can perhaps do this work justice to finish.

Maybe we shouldn’t be worried about painting on any sort of schedules. Every project is different and so is every artist. We ultimately make our own decisions about ways of working that are best for our own unique selves.

I bet there are many varying opinions on this subject. What do you think?


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