A few things were troubling me about this award winning watercolor from '04, as seen in the first image below. So, I decided to take it out of its frame and rework the areas that bothered me. I just finished it yesterday and I'm very happy with the result of the changes I made to it. Let's see if you agree.
"Dory", Watercolor, 19.5x29.5 in., 2004, Amee B. Davis Memorial Award for excellence in painting, Rockport Art Association
The image below is the painting as it now appears.
"Dory", Watercolor, 19.5x29.5 in., 2004-11
I'll let the words of a friend and fellow artist describe my changes. This is from an exchange of notes with my friend Margaret: "I think you changed the color of the hull that is in shadow to be slightly darker and warmer in tone - befitting the warm reflected light from the sandy/gravelly surface. It looks like you've made the shadow of the dory blend more with the surface and the rocks in the foreground. While the light conditions of your reference shot may indeed have made the shadow appear as stark as you initially painted it, in terms of composition, all the elements in the foreground are now more harmonious and pleasing to the eye."
She hit the nail on the head with her comments. All of the changes were made to the foreground and the dory itself. I thought the building, pilings and background were fine just the way they were and the changes to the dory and foreground made the entire painting more harmonious and unified. One small detail she missed, because she was looking at small images was that I also used a razor blade to scrape out the edge of the rope lines to better highlight them.
To answer the question posed in the title of this post "When is a painting finished?", perhaps it is only finished once a collector takes possession of it.