Every Tuesday and Thursday, Tracy and Kelly write about what it’s like to write or paint everyday for a year, respectively. Thursday is Kel’s day to write about painting.
A few weeks ago a reader wrote in and asked me how I know when a picture I’m painting is done. It was a post in which I showed a couple of unfinished works and I thought it was a really good question. Being that I’m still a rookie at this “making art stuff,” it’s a question I ask myself all the time.
I realized a few months ago that I avoid doing ”whole” pictures. I don’t like taking on an entire picture, one that could be framed, etc. I feel nervous and overwhelmed with having to produce a “perfect” picture when I do that. If I stick to just single subjects like just a single snail or a single tree I don’t have to worry about all the background details and proportions. So I guess that is one way to avoid having to know exactly when a picture is done.
(By the way my snails had babies! 70 babies! Yes, we counted. I guess they don’t “poof” into existence after all.)
If I never try to paint a “whole” picture, well then, I don’t really ever have to make a decision on what to include or when I think it might be done.
That sounds a lot like perfectionism and fear. Yuck.
I just got up and looked in my pile of unfinished paintings and I have about 8 of them….all piled up (including the pictures in the post that spurred the question) They are all about 3/4 finished and I find ways to put off pulling them out and completing them. I’m great at starting them, not so great at finishing them.
There are a few pictures I have finished, though, and when I did finish them I have to say that I just sort of “knew” they were done. It was a feeling I got when I looked at the picture. A mixed feeling of “that looks pretty good,” and “don’t add anything else or you’ll screw it up!”
Less really is more when it comes to painting, I believe, and art can turn from looking really nice into a muddy mess in a flash. Sort of a “quit while you’re ahead” motto for me.
Synchronicity struck again with this question because right around when it was asked a blog that I follow asked it’s readers the very same question, and I found the answers that other artists wrote in very helpful. You can check out the question and the many answers here. The Artbizblog by Alyson B. Stanfield is very helpful if you want to make a business out of selling your work. It’s a bit premature for me to be following but I find helpful art tips on there too.
So, now you know what I will be working on this next week…all my unfinished business.