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Nancy Farmer Art Blog

Knowing when to stop

by nancy_farmer , April 9, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: gilding, gold leaf, gouache, masquerade, painting

I always think one of the hard things in art is knowing when to stop. Not to stop doing art in general, obviously, but when exactly to stop and call a piece of work finished. I have heard it said about certain paintings (usually in oils) that the artist spent 4 years or more completing a single painting. Personally this would drive me round the bend, not to say be extremely embarrassing when it came to providing work for an exhibition, but I can understand the delight in detail and striving for a work as perfect as you can make it. This is one reason why painting in gouache (the only paints, frankly, that I have much experience in) is probably very good for me. It would simply not work, spending 4 years working in water-based paints - one of the beauties of gouache and watercolour is the glorious glow of the colours used very thinly on white paper, because none of the pigments reflects the light quite so well as the naked paper, so thin colours are always more vivid than heavy layers. At a certain point one simply has to stop, to retain the essence of water-based paints. That said, the image here is almost a first for me: the blue is usually my under-painting, on top of which, by a series of layering on paint and washing quite a lot of it off, followed by more thin washes, more fine scrubbing off and more final details... I finally achieve my painting. But I always like the simplicity of the original blue under painting, and, complimented by the gold leaf as this one is, I am always half-inclined to stop at blue alone. Knowing when to stop... that is the trick. For once, I think I may just do that, after I have finished this painting in blue. It means a viewer has to stare more closely at the painting to work out what is going on, and I think the subject of a Naked Masquerade would benefit from a little visual obfuscation! If you would like to know more of this work in progress, this link should yield more images and explanation:



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