When is a Painting Finished?/ Edd Tokarz Harnas

When is a painting finished?

Quite often, that IS a common quandary for artists. Which leads me to a story.

The Schaefer Portrait Challenge is a Maui-based competition, held every three years and only open to Hawaii artists depicting only Hawaiian residents (living, as the sitter must also sign in at time of entry). This competition has the most stringent guidelines of any I can recall entering. The piece has to be an original done especially for the contest, never shown in any other competition or venue (including websites). And there needs to be a “direct relationship” with the subject involving at least one live sitting.

Self portraits are acceptable. This is where I come in. I submitted by self-portrait September 10 for jurying and needed to pick up the piece the next day. Entrants would be notified by telephone Saturday evening of their status during this preliminary round. In the end, I was not selected to show in the 2012 Challenge.

When I picked up the painting the next day however, I was pleased to take part in a very rare moment: hearing comments from a show coordinator on how the jurors ruled. (How many juried shows have we entered where we wondered “what the hell were the judges thinking!?”) Although she loved the piece (and title), she said the painting touched off some “controversy” among the three jurors. They immediately focused on the disparity with the eyes, eventually arguing that the piece just wasn’t quite finished.

The self-portrait was conceived and painted in late July/early August [2011]: not only does it reflect some personal frustration I was facing as an artist, it was also created during the debt ceiling b.s. and early days of the stock market roller coaster ride to name just a few national frustrations.

I explained to the coordinator that this was indeed the under painting (roughed out idea). But my conflict: at that point, the piece possessed the strength and feel that I was essentially after. I really was afraid that anything I added would dilute the overall effect. Haven’t we all overworked a painting at one time or another; and at that point, there’s no going back.

So I told this to the coordinator and that I felt it was done; after all, I had signed it didn’t I. So.. when the artist says it’s finished, shouldn’t that hold some weight?



One Response to When is a Painting Finished?/ Edd Tokarz Harnas

  1. I think the painting is so well painted that I assumed that it was your intent to leave the eye as it was. So, it is unsettling. Shouldn’t art make you think?

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