Deciding When My Painting is Done, Part 3 – Adding Recognizable Objects to an Abstract and Making it Work

Probably my biggest challenge – besides knowing when the work is done and stop, and thus allowing myself to return to abstract painting after many decades – is what and how to insert something recognizable into the image: a person, or thing – animate or inanimate (sailboats, birds, a bicycle, the moon, etc).

One of the reasons it was so hard for me to learn to accept a good stopping point when working an abstract – colors, lines and forms – was I felt I had to evolve the abstract itself into something recognizable.

Yet, I was often, actually almost always, much happier with my satisfying abstract vs whatever it was I tried to evolve it into looking like (buildings, clouds, mountains, etc).

The answer, for me, even if challenging, in an almost Roschart-like puzzle-like manner, was deciding on the right object in the right location within the finished abstract.


Because this allows me, after a series of deliberations re composition & source image & color keys, a period of nearly fully-free expressiveness!

It’s hard to express how satisfying this stage of painting is for me – bounded only by a growing awareness to sense when to stop, when to let a streak or stroke of color “be”, and eventually, when to let the work set for the final stages.

Sailboat detail of “In the Light”
©Felipe Adan Lerma
Sailboat detail of “In the Light”
©Felipe Adan Lerma

That final stage, for me, is often a grueling combination of choosing the right object (person or thing) to place into the new world my semi-abstract seems to suggest, then actually executing the tighter yet still-painterly representation into that abstract.

Sometimes I succeed so well in completing the work, I find it hard to find where to sign my new painting, lol! But that’s a different still-evolving story for another time 🙂

Signature detail for In the Light
©Felipe Adan Lerma
Signature detail for In the Light
©Felipe Adan Lerma

Right now I’m working on a strange little 8×8 with lots of earth tones that follows the above sequence. I’ve been lucky enough to photo-document the changes as I’ve progressed and’ll be posting on that when the full process works out. (smiles)

Thank you so much for coming by!


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* Please note, full res images are available on my FAA site *


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