When is a Painting in an “Interesting Place”?

I’ve been pondering how you might define an “interesting place” in terms of a painting-in-progress, whether you could ever be reassured that it was a sufficiently interesting place. Or whether you just have to decide to decide and not contemplate what might lie further ahead this time. (I’m thinking of the story my Mother has about camping in desert dust because the sun was going down and what they found a little way further the next morning.)

It started with a comment on yesterday’s blog by Jim Meanders, who wrote: ‘Paul Gardner said, “A painting is never finished — it simply stops in interesting places.” I had this quote on the wall in the painting studio when I was teaching. I constantly tried to teach students to pay attention to every brush stroke.’

(The closest I have come to finding a source for this quote is an article saying it was quoted in “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron. If you can verify this, do please let me know.)

An “interesting place” feels tied to what you regard as a “good painting” in terms of the level of finish/refinement (thinking how Impressionists were regarded as unfinished), but also in mark-making. Ever-moving as what interests me changes. Also inextricably tied to painting across the whole canvas, progressing every area simultaneously, not finishing one part while other areas remain blank.

Maybe it’s a measure of the relationship with a painting, that spot where I no longer feel energised working on it. Which ties into my thoughts on how you can’t tweak a painting into being finished.

You can’t ever know for certain that what’s interesting to you is to others. Trying to have certainty is a recipe for second-guessing yourself, and sucking out the joy in the making. Embrace the uncertainty and see what the response is.

At the moment I am enjoying exploring line as part of a painting. I added line using acrylic-paint marker pens to this work-in-progress.

It could have been interesting enough to stop here, but I had done it with the thought that I would subdue the hecticness of the line with further layers of paint.

7 Replies to “When is a Painting in an “Interesting Place”?”

    1. Jim, unfortunately that site (full of great quotes as it is) doesn’t give a primary source for the quote, which is what I’m after.

  1. I find it a little unfulfilling when people describe my work as ‘interesting’, I always ask them to say why they have said that. It’s fine when I use it as a word to myself which means my curiosity has been aroused and I intend to investigate and develop the painting further. I can cheerfully say however, Marion, that I find this latest work of yours invigorating and a skilful use of colour!

  2. page 120 in the book called the artist’s way:” a painting is never finished. it simply stops in interesting places.” said paul gardner

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