Painting finished – that’s it right? Wrong!

Put your brush down – this painting is finished… and you’re done! But not so fast; even once the creative work is complete there are many other task between finishing the work and getting ready to show.

This week I have had to draw a line and stop working on certain paintings which can be frustrating if I feel I have just got into my groove as Madonna might say. But work must be ready for Reading Contemporary Art Fair at the end of April… what? But that’s ages away… Maybe, but there is the small matter of school holidays in between, so I have to be organised, as there is a lot to do in between finishing the work and being ready to show:

6 things to do after a painting is finished

Selecting what is complete & what needs framing

So the first task is choosing what to show. Some pieces have remained in the studio because they don’t feel ‘right’ yet. It’s tempting to put it all out, and in the first years I did just that; showed just what I had. But now I’m trying to be more selective and show what is ready, not just what is done. Some paintings don’t make it. You may love it, but if I don’t feel happy showing it, then it won’t go out!

I have some large drawings on paper that may be the beginning of a new direction, but I haven’t had enough time yet to explore them thoroughly or to create a body of work so that I can be selective. That’s OK – it can be helpful to have something ongoing to return to after a break.

Not everything needs a frame – large canvases I tend to leave unframed so the choice is up to the buyer, but smaller works people like to have ready to hang straightaway.

painting edgesFinished details

Once I’ve decided which paintings I want to show, I paint the edges of the wooden panels. These will be mainly hidden in the shadow gap of the framing style I choose, but a coloured edge gives more depth, even if it is only glimpsed. Next they are sprayed with a satin varnish which keeps the pigments in water based mediums and some of the drawing material sealed.

Photograph finished pieces

Once the varnish is dry I must photograph the work properly before it goes anywhere. That’s a step forward – in previous times I have been so last minute before a show that I never get a chance to take photographs. I believe this is known as ‘getting a system’ and it’s something I’m trying hard to get better at. Somehow though, it’s still always pretty close to deadline….

Finding names

There is always a funny discussion with my framer which goes like this:
HIM: Do we have any names yet?
ME: What, for all ten paintings? Er, no, not yet.
HIM: OK what shall I write?
ME: Put them down as Stormy-Grey-Series, or Cut-Away-Blue-Landscapes or, the best so far, …The-Golf-Course-One
HIM: OK (funny look)

It makes my invoices look quite amusing, but sometimes means I have a bit of decoding to do when I look back through my accounts! I keep a notebook of ideas for names as I’m working, it’s hard to be objective and after a while everything begins to sound the same or ridiculous but I prefer to give names than numbers or ‘Untitled’ as it’s another part of the personality of the painting.

yellow plant formsThat must be all finished, once they are framed?

Not yet… Once the framed paintings are collected I would like to take another set of photographs; of the framed work in situ or close up details. Then these all need checking in Adobe Lightroom, colour adjusting and saving in different sizes before they are ready for the website or just for my own records.

Get your paperwork in order

All work should be catalogued. I currently use a spreadsheet for this but it’s getting fairly unwiedly so I’m thinking of investing in Artwork Archive – any reviews or pointers please let me know!  I must measure and take note of dimensions (unframed and framed) and record date finished, sale price, buyer etc.

Then to create labels for the reverse of each piece and for the display. Ordering packing materials so they can be transported safely, hanging… and finally they will be ready to show!

It’s taken me a while to get to this stage – I would love to know what your system is if you are an artist. Or if you are a collector hopefully this is interesting to see how much more goes into getting artwork ready for you.

Followers on my mailing list get first access to new work so I now have another step in the process before a show: set up special access so they get to see the final works first… I’m working on that right now!

March postcard

I always feel slightly bereft when suddenly the studio is emptier again. OK I have two large canvases still on the go, but today I have also painted another in the Pocket Landscape series that started last spring. So that’s the final thing – much like falling off a horse – pick yourself up and get going again straightaway!

This will be the giveaway gift for one person on my email list selected at random this weekend. So that’s two good reasons to join below if you enjoy my work. No spam, not many emails, just a chance for some real art in your mailbox for as long you stay and occasional art inspiration in your email. You can unsubscribe any time you like x

12 replies
  1. Chris(tine) Doherty
    Chris(tine) Doherty says:

    Thanks to all of you for suggestions on how to catalogue pieces of work. I’ve tried to make my own using ‘excel’ and got lost in the morass of information I’ve generated. So I will give Artwork Archive a go. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  2. mari french
    mari french says:

    I’ve recently started using Artwork Archive and find it very good. I’m not so thrilled about the intermittent pestering for me to share it with the public, but it’s not compulsive, so apart from that I’ll stick with it. Reading this article, and your last one Alice, I’ve had sudden feelings of recognition! You’ve been describing the stages I’m at, or getting to, with my own work and practice, and it’s been very reassuring to read, many many thanks!

    • Alice
      Alice says:

      I wonder if there is a way to switch those requests off Mari? There should be, for a paid service. So pleased you found this reassuring – I feel like you are far ahead of me, so I’m honoured!

      • mari french
        mari french says:

        Well, they don’t contact me about it as much as they did, so perhaps it’s just when you first subscribe. it is a good archiving tool. As for being ahead of you, not at all, it’s all smoke and mirrors lol! I relish the jolts of recognition reading your posts give to me!

        • Alice
          Alice says:

          Smoke and mirrors…. and just a bit of hard work??? It doesn’t appear by magic all by itself. Well, on a good day it can feel that way. Love these online connections that support us all.

      • Elaine
        Elaine says:

        Hi All – had a quick look at Artwork Archives blog and

        “The email address you provide for order processing, may be used to send you information and updates pertaining to your order, in addition to receiving occasional company news, updates, related product or service information, etc.

        Note: If at any time you would like to unsubscribe from receiving future emails, please contact us to adjust your email settings.”

        … so – it may be that a quick email will get you an opt out if you get in touch with them 🙂

  3. Tara Leaver
    Tara Leaver says:

    I just found out about Artwork Archive today! It must be a sign to see it mentioned twice. 😉 Have been investigating how best to start selling more of my work. It’s so interesting to hear the process that goes on in the run up to a show, having never done something like that. I was wondering what make of spray varnish you use? I’m using so much charcoal and other media lately I’d like to start protecting my paintings more.

    • Alice
      Alice says:

      Normal fixative should be Ok for pastel and charcoal on paper, but as you know I work on wood with no glass to protect it. Silly me! After much discussion in my art shop I went with Windsor & Newton Professional Satin Varnish which says “protects oil & acrylic paintings” and includes UV protection. I tested it first on an acrylic mixed media piece I had done on mount board as it was fine. Dries almost invisible. There is a Matt version too which must be very matt! And a gloss if you prefer a sheen.

  4. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    Can recommend Artwork Archive – quite addictive (lol) and a good way to have a portfolio to hand (you can generate a minimal + attractive pdf of your inventory) – simple to use – excellent value.

    • Alice
      Alice says:

      Thank you, that’s good to know. I seem to have image files in different places so I will give this a try. Funny how we put things off until they are well overdue!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!