Many artists find blank canvas or white paper intimidating, because they want the very first mark they make to be perfect. I understand this, but for me, its the final stages that are more intimidating – the last few brush-strokes which can make or break a painting. When I think I’ve nearly finished, I put the painting away and don’t look at it for a few days. Then I bring it back into the studio to make a decision. I look at it in a mirror, because seeing it in reverse often highlights problems. I stand it on an easel with a temporary mat covering the edges because this gives me an idea of how it will look when framed. I sit back, feet up on my table trying to make a decision.
I aim to err on the side of slightly unfinished rather than overworked, so many paintings pass this final stage without any additions. I just add my signature, and spend the rest of the day feeling very virtuous. But on the occasions when I think more detail or another wash might be required, I feel a sense of trepidation. I mix my paint, take a deep breath, then I change my mind and revert back to the feet-on-the-table, not-quite-sure-yet stage. If I decide, once again, that more painting is required, I grab my brushes and try to get started before the fear of ruining the painting grabs hold of me instead. Almost immediately I know if my additions are going to be OK – and if my day is going to end well or very badly!
Which do you fear most – the big bad empty canvas, or the frightening final touches?