When do paintings take the breath of life? As I begin a painting, I usually have a nebulous idea of what I want to paint. Having worked in a plein air environment for many years, I have the color scheme and general idea of composition in my mind. However, contrary to many landscape artists, I rarely take the time to do thumb nail sketches & just put a couple of rudimentary lines onto the canvas. If I am doing plein air work, I might spend a few more minutes doing design and composition but this is fairly rare. I just begin by laying down the paint matching the color on the end of the brush to the actual object. After years of practice, the colors are easily mixed on the palate.
The secret of painting a masterpiece is to follow what the paint is telling you. If there is a rock in the foreground sometimes the shape is not condusive to the composition. The change maybe a small one but if it leads to a much better piece then it is worth it. Sometimes the paint will actually include designs in the application that were not there when I started: A swath of green becomes a tree branch, or a boulder turns into a bush. These changes only come from a lot practice in the field and knowing what will please the eye. So when do paintings take the breath of life?
Often I stand back and actually look at my work from across the room. Suddenly, with a slight change of color or adding an element the “breath” flows in the body and the work will begin to sing. How and when it does this only comes by having the years of experience.