Thursday, October 7, 2010

When to stop?

Original oil Painting
by Susan Roux

When do you stop painting?

I'm certain I'm not alone on this subject. How many times have you brought a painting to completion only to feel it was better awhile ago. I'm guilty of it in the studio and notorious for it on location.

Have you ever stopped because someone told you to stop? At that point when you still had a vision to continue, it can be very difficult to put your brush down. What do you do to all those spots you planned on developing further?

I'm here today. Stopping and pondering.

This is the painting I worked on in the Chicken Coop. I took a different approach from the start. Paint the poetry! That's what was in my head (and on the little Monet post-it note in my studio) The scene is from my photo shoot following Stapleton Kearns workshop. That glorious morning when I saw the sun dancing in and out. Armed with my camera, I parked and walked many times while leaving the island.

I'm not always a fan of photos. (sorry my dear husband...) I couldn't wait to paint this lovely scene, but once I looked at my pictures, they hadn't captured anything I remembered. I didn't care. I set out to paint the feeling I had when admiring this waterfront property. How dreamy this floral place was! I could just sit there for hours breathing in the wonderful scents. The various flowers, the salty air...

This precious place slipped my soul away into a relaxing dream.

It was all about the feeling. I used the photo as a reference to put down a basic layout of my composition. Move things, change things. Nothing mattered. I wasn't trying to duplicate the image before me. I have to tell you I had more fun painting this than I have in a long time. It was pure emotion. I thought of my friend Jennifer Wadsworth who always lets the canvas speak to her and direct her. Is this what she's been talking about all this time? I was manipulating the paint to whatever felt right. Choosing colors that projected the feeling I desired. I found myself holding brushes in ways I never have before. It became a tactile experience. I was romancing the canvas.

I think Nora enjoyed watching me as pure emotion led me in its development. By day's end, she told me I was near done. She warmed me about overworking it. That evening, artist friend, Svetlana Beattie visited. She loved the painting. Sign it, she said. Her description of it was moving. With her whole body and up on tiptoes, she demonstrated her feelings towards the tree. Its like a girl, looking out at the sea and leaning towards it. Her arms gracefully out and pointing down, breathing it all in. She's like a ballerina...

Its so interesting to listen to others describe your work. She went on and on about the rhythmic movement and the colors and concluded that any additions would ruin this feeling. She made me listen to Debussy's Reflections in the Water. She said my painting made her feel like that. Everything she said sounded like poetry to me. Had I actually captured that?

So here I am today. I have spots I still intended to develop further. Do I stop? Do I continue? The longer time elapses, the more I seem to overlook the passages that struck me as unfinished. There's no rush. Maybe I should begin another and then see how I feel about this one, remaining at this stage.

Perhaps I'll stop here and consider it an achievement. I can take my next one a step further to see if I can carry the poetry to the very end without loosing it.

Ooooh, so many stimulating thoughts... Its like being in competition with myself. Its a win win situation, or lose lose, depending on how you look at it.


  1. Susan - I love your painting and your title too. Go with YOUR gut feeling because it never steers you wrong. Only one thought comes to me and that is the "unfinished" lower, righthand corner of your painting would be a nice spot for your signature . . . you go, girl.

  2. You have really bared your soul in this blog, and it is so true, everything felt by you so are real.
    Once I got inspired by a friend's story, and I thought I must write about it. I thought I would change the story a bit, and I started it like her story, and somewhere in the middle I gave it twist, and I couldn't stop myself from entwining her story with my story and one thing led to another the whole story it self kept changing, and I became totally obsessed with story, till a point came when I told myself I must bring it to an end and I ended it.
    I added so many elements to it, romance, adventure,anger, frustration, despair and finally reconciliation. I truly enjoyed writing that story.
    I am thinking of editing it properly and sending it to some magazine for publication.
    I can understand your feeling towards your painting. It is not easy to give up something you have put your heart and soul, you always feel it can be better.

  3. It's just beautiful, Susan. I know the feeling you have described too well. I started a watercolor of an old garage door scene that I fell in love with and once I had the sketch on the paper I was so afraid to drop some color on it for fear it would wreck the whole thing. But, I started at one corner (hey, you can always crop the picture, right?) and became more confident with each brush stroke. I'm taking this one very, very slowly. Wishing you a wonderful evening.

  4. Muito bom
    a solução impressionista envolveu a cena
    tão colorida quanto harmoniosa

  5. You did an excellent job on this Susan. I really like the way you have inserted the little Fir tree. It is the perfect touch and the placement could not have been better. Your workshopo comments were great and I enjoyed reading through them.

  6. Love the soft light in dreamy. Excellent job of layering the flowers and greenery. I like the way you included just enough of the house to add dimension and depth. A very calming, well painted piece!

  7. Hi Susan! I have just discovered your blog, and I have fallen in love with this painting, so beautiful and dreamy. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing!
    Regards, Kristina

  8. I love the nice soft light in this painting. Maybe I'll see you Friday at the opening? I want to hear more about the Stape's workshop.

  9. What thrills me when I read your posts about painting is I can relate all those same emotions to my writing. When do I stop editing a story? When does it come across the way I want it to?
    I do love photography and am also excited today because we fixed one of my good cameras and I can't wait to get outside and shoot some pictures of my own.
    I love this painting and I can see that sunlight dancing aross the water:)

  10. Susan,

    Nice painting. It has great depth of field.

    If you are not sure if you are finished, turn it around and don't look at it for a few days and then revisit it.

  11. This is a painting that is a lot of fun to look at. I think it is finished--but maybe that is because I rarely ever re-visit a will know what to do. I am lucky I don't often experience the is-it-done syndrome...because I always paint for about an hour tops. I suppose if I start painting larger paintings I will have to reconsider my "time limit"

  12. A very successful piece. No doubt it is finished!

  13. I love it just the way it is Susan enough there to give that real feel for the place enough missing to let me want to look longer and put my own little verses to the poem of beauty. I really do love it.

  14. I feel that smell of little fir three needles,
    Which comes to me with waves of breezing air.
    The fence embraced by juicy colored flowers
    Holds everybody's move to sanctuary place.

  15. I see a happy dance of paint with this one. It is graceful and soft. Just Lovely.


Please share your thoughts. Your comments are always appreciated.