In an adult drawing class I teach we discussed the artist as kin to a magician and that a drawing is a flat piece of paper covered with lines which can create an illusion of an object in space. How great or minimal that illusion is a personal decision made by the artist. Learning to draw or paint is a process of taking in what is seen, processing it internally and then putting it back out onto canvas or paper. Often times, especially in the early stages of learning a new medium, what is internally perceived as the expected outcome can be considerably different from what actually gets out onto the page. As an artist becomes more familiar with the limitations and qualities of the medium, the gap between the expected outcome and the actual image narrows. This balance between the outer experience, the inner process, and the creation of illusion on a flat surface is a personal struggle I work through with every detail within every drawing or painting I create. Within every part of the painting I strive to achieve an integrity, a union between the medium, the subject, and my internal process.
As I shared this with the class, one of the students blurted, "And that is when you know it is finished." The comment startled me for I had not thought of it in that way, but it is true. It is when I reach that sense of integrity that I know a work or that part of a work is done. However a painting is a system, like a Calder mobile, when one part of the painting is changed it can send ripples throughout the entire piece, thus a new level of integrity needs to be established with a touch here, a daub there, but I always know when it is done.
"Experience changes memory" Dr Garry A Flint taught me many years ago, and so it is with my quest for integrity as an artist.