When is it (the painting) finished?

Does it stand in front of you and reject you? (it cries “don’t touch me”)

Does it have a life ot ite own? (if it does – you feel it, you can’t take your eyes of it)

Do you feel it has taken you on a long journey?

Do you feel it taught you a few lessons?

Do you feel exhausted?

If so….

It is probably finished.

Quick painting? Just a layer of paint!

I don’t believe in paintings done too quickly. I just don’t trust them. A painting must be a result of a long, hard and challenging process. Otherwise, they are nothing but a first layer of paint. A good painting will cause a “good” tension in my body, mainly in the stomach or chest. A good painting will take me to a place where time does not exist. Those are the paintings that I trust. That I can rely on. My paintings are built one on top of the other, on one canvas. None of them could have started with the final layer. All layers are needed, they can be seen in the final work. Either I expose them with a knife, or they add body to the paint. This is a journey. A struggle. Remember the aches I mentioned earlier? They are real. They must be real, because I need them. They guarantee that I am in the right place, in the exact tension and concentration needed to produce a work of art.

If ever an exception to  this rule turns up, I know that the next day in the studio will make me see things right.  All “fast paintings” are worked over. No shortcuts to a good work.

Paintings that are “self-contained”

There is this style of painting that I name “self-contained”. It includes paintings in which you encounter no struggle, no hesitation by the artist. Those are paintings created by artists who paint in the same manner for years, without challenging themselves, as if a challenge, a risk, could threaten their success as artists. 

I have once heard an artist declaring during a gallery talk that he doesn’t paint in large scale because he doesn’t know how to do it. I was tempted to ask him – don’t you ever get out of your comfort zone? Of course I said nothing to him, but I felt sorry and sad about that young artist. For me a day in the studio without a step out of the comfort zone  is a day wasted.  

When I enter a gallery or an exhibition hall with a paintings’ exhibition, I immediately know if the artist was bored while painting or was he taking risks, and therefore surprising himself with every work. It shows. 

When a student comes up to me and decalres that he “doesn’t have a distinguished style” I say – good for you. Now you know your paintings are not “self-contained”.

Teaching painting

paintings by Shay
paintings by Shay, one of my students

I can teach you composition rules

I can teach you the colour basics

I can teach you how to handle the paint, knife and brushes

But don’t ask me to teach you how to paint, because I can’t

Nor can I tell you what to paint

But be sure, you can paint, you can draw

It is a matter of your willingness, interest and practice

Talent does not make an artist, effort does