Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Yes, but is it done?

Knowing when something is finished is hard.  Maybe if I painted portraits or landscapes or fruit bowls it would be easier, but with an abstract composition there's never a feeling of putting in the final puzzle piece.  Lately I've been mounting pieces on wood panels whether I think they're done or not as a way of pushing me past that completion paralysis.

But now I have a tower of half-finished paintings on cumbersome wooden blocks piled up in my tiny art room and I keep tripping over them.

 There's this one:
Some days I look at it and I love it and I'm ready to hang it up.  Some days I look at it and think it's a meandering mess that needs a focal point, or a big shape or something.

And then there's this one:
It's been through so many changes, and each new layer has improved it, but I don't know where to go next.

This one is definitely not done and it's been shuffled about for weeks.  I don't love it enough to keep working on it, but I don't hate it enough to want to totally obliterate it in new layers.

I'm liking the way this one looks:

But it doesn't have as much richness or depth as I'd like and I feel like I should keep adding.  On the other hand, I don't want to ruin what I've got going on.

Because here's one that's gone way too far and is going to have to be reeled back in.  Obliteration is in your future!

What are your strategies for knowing when to keep going and knowing when to stop?


  1. I'm like the WORST person to comment on this, but here's my nickle's worth:
    What I'm realizing for myself is that I always stop short --I never go too far. The best thing about going too far (I'd imagine...) is that you can always dial it back, or even keep going, way past too far, into somewhere else. If you don't go far enough there's always some feeling of something missing, some disappointment or lack.
    Lately what I've been going through is that I run out of energy before I go far enough, or I get too mentally paralyzed or bewildered to keep going. I am trying to remember to do Jane's observation skills and focus more on what I'm seeing rather than what I'm doing/feeling, but it's fucking hard!
    And funny: The one you said doesn't have as much depth as you'd like & want to keep adding to is the one that I think looks the most done! But don't listen to me. The only thing I finish is a cheese plate.

  2. I think they're beautiful but I share that problem - not sure when to quit. I tend to put it away for a day or two and look at it later. Perhaps try framing it to see if it looks "done." I like cheese too (see Lynn's comment above).