How do you know when a painting is successful?

This is a complex issue for me. While it feels good when someone is willing to plunk down their hard earned cash for one of my paintings, this is not my only criteria for success. For me it feels better when the painting comes close to the image that I conjured up in my head. I guess I would take credit for “Happy Accidents” as well assuming they came from my subconscious mind or else I would at least take credit for leaving them alone when they happen. What constitutes success for you?

I agree with you Gary - for me it’s that image in my head that I’m always trying to get down on the canvas. When it comes close (never exactly it seems), to what I’d envisioned, that feels like success. Of course a sale is the icing on the cake!

Success is a moving target. Paintings that somewhat satisfy me today likely will look like garbage to me next year. Such is the nature of the beast as long as a painter’s understanding and taste progress–which hopefully is for life. On any particular painting, you know you’re “done” when nothing you can do at the time makes it any better. (Whether or not it sells means virtually nothing–don’t make me give a popular example :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

Gary, I never have an exact clear view of what my painting should look like while I’m working on it. Instead, I do have a clear idea of what it is that I want to depict. This can be an effect, some basic story, etc.

Success for me is when I see a painting after some time and I’m thinking something like “Hm… not bad” rather than “Omg what was I doing??”

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For me, it only becomes clear with time. When weeks passed and I see a painting I haven’t seen in ages, and I still love it, it’s a success. If weeks go by and I see it again and I cringe, I know I should probably get out the gesso.

I hold the painting up to the mirror. If it looks good, that’s a sign of success. I also photograph the painting, and if it looks good in the photo, that’s a sign too.

Both the mirror and the photo will help reveal flaws in composition and in structure. It shows whether the perspective is crooked, also whether something reads as you intended it.


I consider a painting to be successful when it sells.