When do you know that a work is finished? I’m sure everyone reading this has seen Sleeping Beauty, the Walt Disney movie. You recall that at the end of the movie all the plot threads are wound up. The bad fairy Malificent is slain, all the thorns around the castle are cleared away, Princess Aurora is woken by true love’s kiss, and all the castle’s residents have woken from enchanted slumber. The Tchaikovsky waltz plays as Aurora and her prince swirl around the ballroom, and up in the gallery the three Good Fairies shed a sentimental tear. But then Flora realizes Aurora’s dress is blue. “Pink,” she commands it, and it turns pink. Meriweather immediately turns it blue again, and the dress flips from pink to blue to pink again until the credits roll.
That’s when you know you’re done. The work may or may not be as good as it can possibly get. But it’s as good as you are going to get it, if all you’re doing now is flipping the gown from pink to blue and back to pink again. Time to down tools and move on to woods and pastures new. One of the core gifts of the creative person is to be able to move on. So this is it, the painting as good as I can get it. When next I paint — when next I get my hands on a cheap canvas to redo — it’ll be something entirely different.