Complete But Not Finished

violet painting in progress by Andrew Conti

There is a point in a painting at which everything hangs just right. Like the leaves floated on the ground, water ripples, or how the wind blows. Everything sets in a proper order just as it should be, or as we imagine it always was. A pattern of nature made solid, comfortable and in its matching environment.

I think one can get to this sense of completeness in a painting rather quickly. All portions can be filled, all angles can be directed, and all the energies of motion on the canvas can be focused in a relatively short amount of time. A point where everything makes sense, works together and is true. Not just in terms of the drawing, or as skeleton, but as living form that could move and live. The painting as a whole and unified object.

This is a structural point where you understand how everything is going to hold together, and how forms will fit. One can see a painting in the canvas, and if you stopped right there, you could call it a painting and be done.

This is the completeness of a painting.

Finishing a painting however is another matter all together.

In finishing a work details come to the surface, and they are little floating seeds to be snatched from the air and made clear and permanent in paint. These are the little balances, the sparks and laces that upset drawings, send waves through the flow of a work, and demand so much energy of painters. They create loose wires on the canvas, things we need to resolve in order to ensure a safe settling of the image. So the whole thing doesn’t go up in smoke.

Finishing is finding the connection between surface and structure, components and circuit.  It’s hard to get to, because you can see all the ways it could go if you would only let it. When you are finishing something you’ve settled on a certain set of possibilities and limited the future possibilities to elevate those that exist now.

Finishing though is not a quick process. It seems to happen at any speed it chooses, and the only tools one has in painting to achieve it is the ability to continue working, refining, reviewing, and carrying on.

Complete is something to be aimed for and completed quickly – the first destination of a painting’s journey. Finished is the long winding melody-making that may as well take forever.