On occasion I’m asked: “when do you consider a painting to be finished?” Of course that’s a question that a lot of painters get. And I guess the answer if kind of simple: when it looks finished. When I can stand back and say: “that’s what I wanted.” Well, maybe it’s more like” “that’s pretty much what I wanted.” I don’t think I ever get a painting exactly the way I want it, because I don’t think I know from the outset exactly what I want. George Condo, my favourite contemporary painter (or at least in the top 10 for sure) was asked that question, and if I recall correctly he said something like, and I’m paraphrasing here: “when continuing to work on it would ruin it.” I think that thought tends to be in the back of my mind too.
I got to thinking about this today because yesterday I was looking at a few of the paintings that I considered finished and saw some things that I wanted to do to improve them, even if just a little. And that reminded me of my time in my MFA when one of my professors mentioned what he called my “just good enough aesthetic.” You see back then as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was doing some clunky cut-out animations with major time constraints. Even though they were intentionally clunky and made with cut-outs, they were still labour intensive. And every now and then when I was working on my watercolour cut-outs, I’d do one that I really didn’t like and say “that’s good enough,” or “that’ll have to do,” because I needed to work on the next one. The first few of these animations were done during my undergrad (technically my second undergrad, my BFA) and while some of the stuff is still somewhat poignant and pretty damn funny (if I say so myself), I don’t want to show them to anyone anymore or even look at them myself. They weren’t good enough! The MFA ones were better, and if you dig a bit on standickie.com you can see some of them.
But anyway, that professor was the first person to call me out on my “that’s good enough” aesthetic and I had to admit to him that he was right. I’d known it all along, of course. I guess I’m bringing it up now because now that painting is my main activity, I have to make sure never to say “that’s good enough.” Sometimes it helps to step away from a painting for a few days, or even weeks and then have another look at it. That’s the case with this painting of Silvio Dante from The Sopranos, as well as a couple of other ones I worked on this past weekend. Well, I did mention on Instagram that the Silvio Dante painting needed a bit more work, but it’s one that I can imagine having gotten to this stage and saying “that’s pretty much what I wanted.” And really, isn’t that pretty much the same thing as saying “that’s good enough.” I suspect that in the end, all artists work on things till they’re good enough. But I think they all also push themselves to make them even better. And certainly that’s what I’m trying to do. Have a look at today’s Instagram post, and I’ll show you another painting I worked on this past weekend. Can you see any difference?