Friday, September 18, 2009

Do You Have a Pile of Abandoned or Unfinished Paintings?

Get Happy
(8"x10" Canvas, Golden paints, foam stamps, magazine images, 3-D flowers)

Texture #1
(8"x10" canvas, Golden paints & mediums.)

Yesterday, I was determined to complete a number of paintings that have piled up, unfinished. I'm happy to say my day was very successful, since I wrapped up seven paintings, all shown here.

But that got me thinking about unfinished paintings.

Texture #3
(8"x10" canvas, Golden paints & mediums.)

My friend Diane and I spent all afternoon yesterday ainting at our friend Sally's house. It's always such a wonderful time to give total focus to something. I love getting feedback from my artist friends, because they give me constructive criticism. Plus, the camaraderie is glorious! Thanks, Sally, for inviting me to your lovely La Jolla home for these special afternoons.

Purple Birds On a Wire
(8"x10" wood box canvas, Golden paint, vintage music paper, stencil)

I've heard from a lot of artists about the sad habit of accumulating a pile of unfinished paintings. In fact, it has inspired me to not let my unfinished pile get too stacked up and left behind. And so far, so good!

But why do we do this? Are these painting unloved or unwanted? Or did the artist just not have time to finish them? I have a feeling many of the abandoned paintings were unfinished because the artist just didn't know what to do next or how to make it complete. I'd love to hear from you on this topic.

Blue Mirror
(10"x10" Solid pine wood with small center mirror. Golden paint, vintage music text.)

Do you have a large pile of paintings or other unfinished artwork? Does it call out to you to finish it? Do you plan on finishing it someday when you find the time or are you just stuck and have no idea what to do to complete it?

I'm seriously interested.

Texture #4
(10"x10" canvas, Golden paints and mediums)

I've been painting (this time) for less than a year now and would like to learn from all of you, so I don't wind up with a closet full of unfinished work.

Texture #2
(10"x10" canvas, Golden paints and mediums)

I'm seriously interested in your pile of stuff, so please leave me a comment or email me at

(FYI - Artist Chris Cozen will be teaching at Stamping Details in Poway on Halloween weekend. One of the classes will deal with finishing paintings where you got stuck!)


  1. Good question. But, first let me say well done on getting your paintings completed. They are great and it seems that you are pleased with them too.
    And, that's a big key to the question. Sometimes I will start a painting because of the way I am feeling or something that feels like it needs to be expressed and then somewhere in the process, it's all out there.
    I'm done. The painting isn't but it served it's purpose to help me process what needed to be processed. So, at another time I can gesso over it and do something else.
    Sometimes I'm learning a technique. It's not my style and I'm not happy with the results so far. I see no reason to finish that particular journey. I can cut it up and use it in a college or journal page or I can get out that gesso again.
    Like many projects I started and didn't finish I don't beat myself up about them. If I still like the direction I may finish it. If not I can let go of it. It's just paint or paper and a "moment in time". :)Bea

  2. Paintings not yet finished are waiting for inspiration, just like us. Take them out of their dust bunnies and breathe them in again. See where the colors don't work or there needs to be more form and substance. If it's all just too bad, just throw on a coat of Titan Buff paint and cover up everything you don't want to see and begin again...I have many paintings that have had former lives. It's only paint!

  3. Hi, I've just found your blog and I am very impressed with your work! Your subject for this post really "speaks" to me as I have just posted today on that very topic! I recently completed a pile of unfinished and forgotten paintings. It is a good feeling to finally 'resolve' them. I think mine piled up for several reasons: Lack of time, fear of ruining what I have so far, lack of inspiration. It's an interesting question.

  4. I came to your blog thru Latest trends in Mixed media yahoo group. I found your question to be timely in that 2 people have continued to question me on some unfinished projects. I think the universe is working to set a fire under my rear.

    I think I get distracted by other projects, deadlines, disorderly blocks (when my art area is too messy to pull out anything else)and plain old life experiences.

    I took a workshop from Chris at AU and those paintings may forever sit in the unfinished pile. I'm not sure what direction they are headed in and the energy from that class has flown the coop!

    I was working on finishing a project, but set that aside last night to start yet another project that may or may not get finished. I always give myself permission to just play, rather than focusing on finishing a project and I find that generally, I just play and not a lot gets completed. Thanks for giving me something to contemplate this afternoon.

  5. I often let paintings percolate for a while at various stages.
    Occasionally one will become forgotten- but it eventually gets unburied and worked on, reworked or occasionally painted over if it inspires something new.

    Sometimes a painting that I thought was 'finished' ends up getting taken off the wall and reworked.
    I guess mine are only truly safe if I sell or give them to someone else. ;)

  6. Great paintings, Nina! I don't have a pile of unfinished paintings..but I think I should. I think that sometimes when there are gaps in the creative process, we set things aside and wait for the perfect inspiration to come the meantime, it seems easy to start up a new project while you least that's what I think.. instead I torture myself and wait for painting #1 to get finished before starting #2.. LOL

  7. I too have canvases piled up and unfinished. I'm always hoping for something to materialize when painting an abstract, but if I start without a clear direction or intention, it usually seems to end up in the dead-end pile. The "happy accidents" some artists count on don't happen to me too often. I've been more pleased with my abstracts when I start with a collage or color scheme or design or something I can see as a goal and judge whether I've gotten there. Then I know I can quit. Otherwise, I keep working it until I'm sick of it and put it away in the closet. Congrats on finishing some of your paintings. They look great.

  8. Thank you all so much for the information and your personal feedback!

    I realized that I haven't finished two of my paintings because I'm afraid to ruin them! Yikes - I do not want to let fear control my artistic life, so I will be working on them later this week.

    Getting feeback has also helped me "fix" paintings I'm unsure of. I'm also trying to stick to basic composition principles to help guide me.

  9. Hi Nina!
    I've only been dabbling with acrylic paints for about a year now, too . . . I'm especially drawn toward your Texture #1 . . . it's LOVELY!

  10. Hi Nina!
    THANK YOU so much for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice compliment! Ohhhhhh . . . you are so lucky to take Chris Cozen's class in Poway! I agree . . . she is AWESOME! Have a GREAT time!!!!