knowing when to stop…

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17/02/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

Believe me…the difficulty of beginning will be nothing compared to the difficulty of knowing how to stop.” (Agatha Christie, excerpt from Murder in Mesopotamia)

My latest CMF painting was a fitting example of this concept. Canvas #13: Southern Steps started out as an experiement (sorry Barry, your canvas was my guinea pig). I had recently read an excellent book titled “Creative and Abstract Painting Techniques” by Brian Ryder. One of the techniques that Ryder described was to apply oil pastels to the canvas, then smooth out and move the colour with turpentine. What a great discovery!

The next trick was to figure out how water-based acrylic paint would interact with the oil of the pastel medium. Let’s just say that Canvas #13 did not turn out anything like I had envisaged and certain sections proved very difficult to control. The vibrancy of the colour, however, was a pleasant surprise!

The overriding challenge was to know when to stop. I came to the point where I knew I couldn’t thrash the painting any further to make it do what I wanted/hoped for. Yet another attempt to layer the colour would not improve the flawed fundamentals of the composition, so I stopped. I was not particularly “happy” with the result, but was content in the attempt.

One beneficial by-product of the CMF project is that I have a self-imposed obligation to present you all my attempts – even if they are not “great”. If I didn’t hold myself accountable to this, a good half of the canvases would have ended up in a closet and not on the web!

I try to embrace Salvador Dali’s quote: “Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it.” That’s a comfort, and a good reason to make sure I know the right time to stop!


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Sarah Ritchie
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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
Exhibitor, The Original Art Sale 2011


© Sarah Ritchie 2014

Please do not use copies of my original artwork for profit, however you are welcome to share my artwork images as much as you like!

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