I have a number of questions In ask myself about a painting when I am intending to finish it in the studio. Here are some that come to mind. I am not particularly talking about adding detail, though some of that might be necessary, nor do I mean tightening up the painting, although sometimes that is necessary too..
- Is this MY painting, or could it have been made by someone else?
- Is there anything in the painting that accidentally looks like a fish or a goats head?
- Are all of my shapes varied and interesting?
- Does the main line of the painting guide the viewer the way I want them to go?
- Have I got good contrast in the painting? Do I need to add more light? Strengthen my shadows?
- Have I drawn everything well enough?
- Are all of my edges handled well, soft or hard?
- Are any of my light passages, such as the sky, dirtied by careless smearing from a tree or other neighboring mass?
- Are the lines in my buildings vertical that need to be vertical?
- Are my colors right, do they relate well to one another?
- Have I got consistent light, in direction, color and temperature?
- Is the overall tonality of the painting working?
- If their are technical details are they correct. For instance, is there a boom crutch on that catboat? Are the tops of the windows on the house above or below the returns on the gables? Is the girls sweater correct for the period of her hairstyle. All of those things matter if you are selling a painting to a sailor, an aficionado of period architecture or a woman who loves fashion. If you paint boats, your customer likely knows and loves them.
- Are there any problems with the surface? Do some brushstrokes catch the light in an unpleasant way. Does the picture need retouching varnish. Is it tight on its stretchers?
- If there is a body of water or a horizon line is it level and straight? Do the subjects in my painting perspect towards it?
- Would the painting be improved by adding a figure.? A walrus?
- Is it signed? Is the signature level? Unless you sign on an obvious diagonal, a crooked signature looks amateurish.
- Are there little spots of canvas showing at the edge of the canvas that didn't get painted?
- Did I look at it in a mirror to see if I missed anything?
The list above contains typical entries and I could probably double its size, but you get the idea. It is a self critique to find the errors in a painting and fix them.
A PAINTING HAS NO REASON TO EXIST OTHER THAN THAT IT BE WELL MADE!