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Megan Hinton

Paintings, Drawings, and Prints

When is a painting finished? When can I stop painting this surface?  Is what’s troubling in the composition ok to let go of and leave as is? Is it ready to hang on the wall for the viewer to see?  These are the age-old questions for painters regarding finishing a piece.

This question is always difficult to conclude. There are many stages of a painting and just one stage is completion. That is harder to declare than the initial tint that leaves the surface open to many possibilities.

The Initial Canvas Tint, A Beginning

Then there are the in between stages. A session spent, a time put away to dry, a period of observation before the next work session, the editing, and the changing of other aspects based on the initial editing. When one thing is changed it forces other aspects to demand revision. Between realization and finishing can be chaotic. Sometimes a painting paints itself efficiently and the declaration of finishing is not so far fetched.

Detail of the Beginning Stage

What about those paintings that demand many layers, multiple reworking, and time faced against the wall as not to be bothered by their lack of resolve? These are the paintings that require perseverance and patience. In the end, if there is one, a piece displays layers of time, labor, and a history about painting thought.

I have hung paintings in exhibitions and looked at them knowing something could still be accentuated, highlighted, darkened, glazed, defined, or taken out. Paintings live around my studio that I have been meaning to change over the course of some years. Currently I’m working on a large-scale piece that I started ten years ago on unstretched canvas. I stretched the canvas on bars some months ago and am still working out the color, composition, and essence of the subject matter. It is taking shape and maybe almost finished. Tomorrow though I could have another look and declare it far from resolved.

The resolve of finishing a particular painting changes daily. This is why I work on multiple paintings at a time. After a session with one I can move to another, to get closer to finishing a piece and a body of work.

Detail of A Finished Painting

A good painting instructor and well-established artist, Maureen Gallace, spoke wise words to me once. She said in regard to finishing a painting “If just one or two things are bothering you let it go and declare it finished.”  Excellent advice as over finishing and too much time spent on one piece can lead to ruin and lack of prolificacy.  Good painting means not only knowing when to stop but also when to continue.


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