How to End a Painting

I went to 410 Goodbuddy today to see Pat Goslee’s paintings. I arrived early and we chatted about painting. The works ranged from 2005 to 2016. Some of the recent work had just been made, taken right from the studio.

2016-04-23 15.14.49

Pat isn’t using brushes. She cuts the paint onto the surface, then gouges, sands, and scrapes. She is drawing with tools. Layering paint. One of the most recent works was the largest (I didn’t get a photo of that one). She said it was ten paintings. That is something I relate to. But it took ten paintings to arrive at the final one we saw in the gallery. When you got close you could see the many layers. Writ there a history of Pat’s labor. And she said that the painting wasn’t necessarily done, but rather the curator, Thomas Drymon, sort of gave it a stamp of doneness. Quite often this is the case; someone sees a work in progress and tells you to put it on a wall. This is something I could speak at length about but I want to adhere to the subject of layers and such.

This layering is search for doneness. Pat said she is looking for “calm.” Which is interesting because  I think so many painters are looking for tension. Tension to cause the viewer to stumble or go cross eyed. Tension of a never-doness. An ever inquiry. That’s what I am currently dealing with. Why end the painting? Why would it ever end? The painting is infinite.

2016-04-23 15.14.19

But she wants calm. Something stable perhaps. Serenity rather than frenetic inertia. A painting that ends perhaps. Somewhere to hang your hat.

Maybe a calm of the eye, a calm of the layering. A calm of the search for that precious little zone on a painting. She talked about finishing a painting, and perhaps a difficulty in that. I mentioned Calli Moore over at American University.

Calli was making these labored paintings. I can’t find any images of them but here is one of hers from 2016.


Dash-Dash-Dash-Infinity, Acrylic and wooden dowels on canvas, 20×16″, 2016

Calli was finding those precious little zones of goodness. And zeroing in on them, pushing all other variables aside. She painted everything else black. That seems a functional method for dealing with the never ending painting.

Dealing with darlings.

She didn’t kill those darlings but found a way to embrace them. Of course that is its own issue. When once they were darlings, the addition of blacking out the canvas would completely change the context of that darling’s relationship to the rest of the painting.

It works like this: mark A interacts with the canvas and itself. Mark B then interacts with the canvas, mark A, itself, and the many relationships of A, B, and canvas. This grows exponentially with each mark until you have a painting that is a raucous calamity of variables fluxing each other. Just fluxing their brains out. It is a roller coaster. The roller coaster of highs and lows of goodness. Pat called that good thing, precious. The point of preciousness that wants to linger; live. The darlings become legion, or they push against each other. Rub them out and the whole relationship changes.

Then, is it so darling anymore? Change one thing, and it effects everything else. Stomping on butterflies right?


Rewire Ark, 30×30″, acrylic, latex, and marker on canvas, 2013 (this one wasn’t at the show)

This is something I have struggled with myself. When to end it. Why to end it. Those precious little darlings beg to be loved. But they die. Pat said you have to paint around them or paint them out. My response to this is the Kitchen Sink painting.

The Kitchen Sink painting includes everything…including the kitchen sink. It is an overworked painting. I just layer and layer. Making painting after painting on a single painting. Like her ten paintings on one painting that only ended because Thomas wanted to put it in the show. And sometimes this layering becomes mechanical, as with this one that is literally just 80 layers of latex, applied then scratched away with a tool:


80 Layers, acrylic and latex on canvas on oil on canvas, 36×24″, 2015

Or there are  other cases. Like any other painting, yet still a mechanical effect. I have recently been doing what I am calling the Stretch/Un-stretch Series wherein I make a painting as normal then un-stretch the canvas, re-restretch the canvas in a slightly different register, then make a new painting. Each attempt is having each painting interact with the previous, yet each time is an attempt at an “autonomous,” painting. Each attempt is a series of finding darlings and killing them yet retaining some, but in a mechanically methodical plan of stretch/un-stretch.


Six Paintings, One Stretcher, acrylic on canvas, 21×16″, 2016

It all becomes a many layered painting. My other approach is literally 100 paintings layered atop each other. Here I literally made 100 paintings, each canvas covering the one previous to it. Like Calli painting out everything but the darling, or Pat painting layer after layer seeking her calm.

dab4ffa6743f38287aa63cdb6d866da8100 Paintings, one-hundred acrylic paintings on a 20×16” stretcher on easel, 74x37x37″, 2015

Where ever, however to end a painting is a real question. When should things end?

Lives end. Civilizations end. Why shouldn’t paintings end? Where are those darlings and why can’t we just kill them? How to end a painting?

See more of their paintings at


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