Lisa Penz Art

How Do You Know When it’s Over? My top 5 finishing techniques

June 3, 2015

“How do you know when it’s over?” This is the question new artists often ask me. Or, rather, “how do you know when a painting is finished?”. My initial response is – “You just know.”. Since that isn’t really practical, and it’s difficult to explain a gut feeling, I’ve listed my top 5 tips & tricks below that I use when I know a painting is nearing the end… I’ve spent years evaluating, over-thinking and dancing around my easel trying to figure it out. Follow my steps and you won’t have to do any of that…

LisaPenz abstract art


It is as crazy as it sounds. This one doesn’t work for everyone and every painting (and I typically wouldn’t do it with Portrait painting) but try turning off the lights and you’ll see your work as shapes and the negative/positive spaces will become more evident. The most important thing for me about this trick is that your painting will funnily enough tell you where you need moments of light.


Yep, that’s right. Take your canvas and turn that sh*t upside down. Again, this is a trick for the brain and altering your perspective. By turning your painting upside down, you’ll be able to see if everything is properly aligned, symmetrical, and be able to tell if it feels truly balanced or not. Balance may not be important to you in your work but creating a balanced piece of art is key for me to achieve a beautiful feeling.


During my first gallery showing I was shocked how tiny my paintings appeared on the walls of a large gallery. I mean, my large paintings looked mini! My studio space is quite small so to experience my work in a larger space changed the energy of my work completely. I strongly suggest hanging your painting up in different areas of your home so you can feel how the energy changes. In doing so you’ll begin to see what stands out for you as needing refinement or a tweak in composition.


This trick developed for me when I photographed one of my pieces I thought was finished and ready to go up on my site. I ended up seeing a lot of little errors and some moments in the painting didn’t feel quite right. I totally get that this step seems so tedious and a bit time consuming but try it and see if you see a difference! On a Fashion note — the more clever and fashion-forward celebrities use this trick before stepping onto the red carpet. They photograph their outfit before the event to see if it translates just as well onto camera as most people won’t be seeing them in real-life anyways! Same same with your paintings—most people will only be seeing photographs and not the real thing.


Take time away. The incubation process is so beneficial. Sometimes I need to hide my painting from my line-of-site for a few days (better yet a week or two if you have the time). Timeframe is also big for me… Again, this is about knowing yourself. I prefer spending up to 2 weeks on a painting -but- I know artists who spend months on one painting. During my process, the first few days is about build-up and anticipation, then planning and finally execution. I’ll stick with a painting for as long as it takes for the piece to achieve what I’m emotionally experiencing and this generally takes a week or so and then I like to wrap it up. I get bored of the same painting after a period of a few weeks and I get the feeling it’s time to move onto the next.

In the end, these finishing techniques will come down to your own personality and the kind of work you do.

So… that’s how you know! Post any questions/comments below.

2 Responses

  1. Dale Jarvis says:

    I like your suggestions and have written then down only I call mine Lisa Penz’s 5 “T’s” to improve my work. I made some small changes to your classifications so they all start with “T” hope you don’t mind. I am really enjoying your page and am indebted to you for all you very appropriate advice.

    I am waiting for Fedx I sent off and abstract work to be put under Acrylic and now Fedx is ridding it around. I am excited to get it back.

    Best of everything,

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Dale,
      I’m so happy you found my advice valuable. Yes, try out the 5 “T’s” and let me know what you discover/if it works for you. : )


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