It's a great feeling once you finish a painting which you have long worked on and you are satisfied with the result. But your work does not finish there. There are a number of tasks which I recommend you do once you finish a painting.
These tasks may not provide any immediate benefit, but let me assure you, you will be glad you did them later down the track when all your paintings are nicely recorded, organized and maybe even sold. So here is a quick checklist for some of the things you should do after you finish a painting.
1. Consider if it is actually finished
Knowing when to put the brush down and calling it finished is a skill on its own. There are many times when I have considered a painting finished, only to get the paints out again, later on, to fix up something that was annoying me or an error which revealed itself.
So before you run through the rest of the checklist, I suggest you place the painting somewhere clearly visible in your house where you can see the painting from many different perspectives (don't place it in a narrow hallway where you can only see it up close) and then wait.
If you are satisfied with the painting after a few days or even weeks, then I would consider it complete.
(You may also find my 1-Page Painting Checklist helpful).
2. Sign your painting
Signing your painting should be the last time your brush touches that canvas. Of course there will be times when you need to fix something up, but in general, your signature should be your last stroke.
Your signature almost provides a sense of closure and relief that you made it to the end of the painting and you feel it deserves your signature. This is a big achievement and you should take pride in signing every finished painting.
I wrote more about signing your painting here.
3. Name your painting
You don't need to get all deep and meaningful with your naming. It could merely describe what you have painted. That is how I have named most of my paintings.
I don't think the name should matter all that much. If you did a good job, then your painting should say enough without the name. Though many of those famous abstract paintings which don't seem to have a lot going on would probably be meaningless without a name - just another black stripe on a canvas.
4. Photograph your painting
This topic deserves an entire post.
Photographing your painting will feel like it is the bane of your existence as an artist. I guarantee your photos will often turn out:
- Too light/dark
- Too cool/warm
- Not clear enough
- With parts cropped out
Once you have a process in place which includes proper lighting and a decent camera, then you should be able to consistently take proper photos of your paintings. But getting to this level is no easy task. I wrote about this process in detail here.
It is extremely important that you learn how to photograph your art as that is the only way to ensure some form of your art lasts forever. Photography is a fantastic luxury for us artists so learn to embrace it.
Thankfully I have my assistant Kobe to always help with photographing my paintings.
5. Record the details
Whilst it may not seem important now, it is very useful to have a list which records the name, dimensions, medium, date and sold status of all your paintings. This way you can easily monitor your productivity as an artist and keep track of all your paintings.
This becomes increasingly important once you start to build a sizable body of work.
6. Clean up the edges
If your painting is on gallery stretched canvas and you did not extend the painting over the edges, then you may want to consider what you are doing with the edges. You don't want to wait until the painting is sold before you think about it.
Here are your options:
- Do nothing and leave the edges looking somewhat untidy (see the photo below). This is fine if your painting is going to be framed.
- Paint over the edges with white or black paint. This is a good option if you do not intend for the painting to be framed. You could also tape the edges before you start painting then remove the tape at the end, leaving a crisp white edge.
7. Does it need varnishing?
If you are using oil paints, then you will need to wait for the paint to dry completely before you can varnish it. This could take anywhere from a few months to a year. If you are painting in acrylics, you could varnish much sooner.
Varnish will protect your painting by stopping dirt and debris from getting into the paint. The varnish can be removed at a later date if the painting needs some restoration.
Varnishing your paintings is optional. Some artists decide not to varnish as it can change the way the finished painting looks.
8. Update your website
If you have an art website, now is the perfect time to update it with your latest painting. Be sure to use a high-quality photo which has been optimized for the web. Unoptimized photos straight from your camera will look great but tend to be very large and will slow your website down. So you need to balance the appearance with website performance.
On your website make sure you document the name, dimensions and date of the painting.
9. Create a blog post or video about your painting
If you run an art blog or Youtube channel then your painting process and the finished painting could provide great content for these platforms. You could discuss your finished painting, the challenges you faced, your processes and your overall thoughts.
People enjoy seeing the process of creating just as much as they enjoy the finished product. Even if you are just learning, there are people around the world who will appreciate your thoughts.
10. List your painting for sale on online market places
There are many online art marketplaces which you can list your paintings for sale for a commission (usually around 30%). Some of these marketplaces will even arrange a courier on sale.
You get exposure to thousands of viewers, but you will be competing with many other artists so do not expect too much from these platforms. Use them to complement your overall marketing strategy rather than rely on them.
You can also upload high-quality photos of your painting and sell prints via these platforms without having to arrange anything. Your success in this area will really depend on the demand for your kind of art. Some art just seems to perform better in the mass market.
(If you want to learn more about the marketing and business side of art, you might be interested in my Marketing for Artists email-course.)
11. Search for upcoming competitions to submit your painting to
If I am really pleased with the finished painting, then the last thing I will do is search for any upcoming competitions to which I could submit my painting. Submitting a painting to competitions is time-consuming so be selective with what competitions you try to enter and make sure your painting suits the competitions. For example, if you just finished a beautiful impressionist landscape painting, then don't try and enter that painting into an abstract contemporary art competition.