Artist Diaries: How do you know when an oil painting is complete?

Part of being a good artist, according to my oil painting teacher, is to know when to stop. Stop painting.

In the last episode of The Artist Diaries, this was the topic of contention and great drama. This week, I had to face the very same question. I try to paint a little every evening. It is a nice way to clear my head of details so that the larger ideas can ferment. During a session this past week, I realized that I may be finally done with my painting ‘Lucie Stern Through the Looking Glass’.

The name of the painting comes from the fact that this is the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto and the particular photo I took was during a performance of ‘Rabbit Hole’ by Palo Alto Players. Hanging across the balcony railings in the original photo was a banner with the play’s name. I was contemplating whether I should paint the banner into the painting. However, after I completed the railings, I loved the detail so much, I couldn’t bear covering it up so the banner was never hung across the balcony, but the name stuck. A piece of trivia for you dear reader.

I decided to stop painting and wait until my next art class to ask Lee, my teacher, for her opinion.


The inspiration for my next painting comes from a photo taken in the summer of 1975 of a candy apple stand at the The Ex in Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Canada. I choose this photo because I love the bright colors of the candy apples and lemons. I also chose this painting because it features people which I have not painted up until now.

This will be a very challenging painting and I look forward to painting it because of this. What fun would it be if when you start an endeavor you already know you will succeed?

So much in life is about the struggle during the process. It is this struggle that enables the painter to become a better artist.

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Loni Stark
Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker, and yet is also passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's the host of our Stark Insider video features. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. Loni's story...
  • Karin A.

    Your painting is gorgeous, Loni! I love the colors and the detail of the wrought iron, tree branches, etc. I’ve been following your Artist Diaries with great interest as I started taking oil painting classes at around the same time you did. In fact, I started with Lee on Thursdays, but had to switch instructors because of a change in my schedule and now I’m taking a couple of classes (at University Art and the Pacific Art League). It’s been fun, challenging, frustrating, and rewarding.

    Keep up the good work. You’re very talented and have been an inspiration to me to keep plugging away at this. Your Lucie Stern painting is the best one yet.

  • Karin A.

    Your painting is gorgeous, Loni! I love the colors and the detail of the wrought iron, tree branches, etc. I’ve been following your Artist Diaries with great interest as I started taking oil painting classes at around the same time you did. In fact, I started with Lee on Thursdays, but had to switch instructors because of a change in my schedule and now I’m taking a couple of classes (at University Art and the Pacific Art League). It’s been fun, challenging, frustrating, and rewarding.

    Keep up the good work. You’re very talented and have been an inspiration to me to keep plugging away at this. Your Lucie Stern painting is the best one yet.

  • Thanks Karin for the encouragement and inspiration to keep writing about my painting adventures! It’s so nice to know when I write these entries, I am connecting with you and others who have a shared passion.

    Hope to bump into you one of these days at University Art.

  • Thanks Karin for the encouragement and inspiration to keep writing about my painting adventures! It’s so nice to know when I write these entries, I am connecting with you and others who have a shared passion.

    Hope to bump into you one of these days at University Art.