Thoughts on Finishing Part 1: The Naked Beauty Contest

 “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

The Naked Beauty Contest

Painting is risky. As artists, we bare our souls in our work.  It’s like a naked beauty contest. What’s worse is that as you stand there for all to see, people feel permitted to give a critique. So before we present our work to the world, we want it to be right.  Yet how do we know when it’s finished?  That’s the dilemma!

The finishing touches are important, because to share our work, is to ask for a reaction.  Every viewer has that right to their feelings.  We can’t control what they will be…and that’s the problem. All artists hope that whatever they do will speak to someone else other than themselves.  What that conversation will look like is the uncertain part…the part that can make you sweat!

Most paintings are going to elicit one of the following reactions:

  • Ignoring you (the worst case)
  • Quietly liking what they see
  • Talking smack about you (believe it or not, this is better than the first two)
  • Talking about you in positive terms
  • Liking what they see so much that they get out their wallet!

Similar to your experiences at a high school dance, sometimes you might be the belle of the ball and other times the wallflower.  If you’re lucky, you will be noticed.  So if they’re talking about you…it’s a good thing, [no matter what they’re saying!]

“Any reaction is better than none.” ~Gavin Rossdale

Any reaction may be better than none, but that doesn’t make hearing criticism easy!  I’ve literally had someone come up to me in front of other artists and say, “The problem I have with you and your work is…”  Really.  It happens.

When you begin to show your work to others, you need to put on your rubber suit and think about that old kindergarten chant:  “I am rubber you are glue, it bounces off me and sticks to you.” You need to be ready and grow a pair, so to speak.

I’ll let you in on a little secret…

The good news (or bad news) is that your toughest critic will likely be YOU.  God help us when our own egos get involved!  It’s hard to close the door on ego when we paint, and boy is it a demon when unchecked. That critical voice in your head can turn into a raucous committee that my friend, Kathie George rightly calls, “the itty-bitty shitty committee.” When they start in on a painting, watch out!

If your goal is perfection, you will always fall short. Revel in the fact that you are not perfect! You are wonderfully unique! You are perfectly imperfect and so are your paintings.


Don’t confuse your personal worth or overall talent with the outcome of any particular painting.  Every artist has paintings that didn’t work out the way they hoped. The more productive you are, the more of these you might will produce. As you branch out and expand your repertoire of subjects, you might find that your forte isn’t portraits, or landscapes or abstracts. If you’re trying new things, it may take some repetition before you improve.  Does it mean you can’t paint or don’t have talent?  Absolutely not!

Are we there yet?

If a painting isn’t well received, does that mean it isn’t any good, or that it isn’t finished?  This is a question asked by every artist in every generation. When is enough, enough?  When is it over… When will that fat lady sing?  I’ll address this and more in the next installment of this Series: Thoughts on Finishing Part 2: My Best Tip For Finishing.

If you have an interest in joining me for a dedicated class on this subject, join us on Wed, July 26 from 1-4 PM.  We’ll have an in depth discussion, and give you a chance to bring a painting of yours across the finish line with my help.

Thanks for reading!

Love and light,


PS- if you like this subject, you might enjoy reading this post:


Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Sally Gavic says:

    I really enjoyed seeing my feelings expressed in your blog about finishing a painting. Having just finished Karlyn’s class which is always an overload of information and an almost manic rush to create, I have of course a painting to finish. Allowing 3 days to decompress I see more clearly that truly just a bit more is all it needs. Thanks for your advice, from (need any bulldog clips Sally)

  • Hi Sally, I’m glad you could relate to the thoughts I shared about the mindset we need to overcome in the journey to finish a painting. I never really knew how much of an issue I had with perfectionism until I started to paint and it kept slapping me upside the head! The more I teach the more I see it in my fellow painters.

    I know you had fun with Karlyn! And I also know she kept you busy! Have fun finishing that painting! 😊🎨

    Can’t wait to see you…don’t forget your bulldog clips 😉❤️ Love, Rebecca