I’m not talking about art altogether. You should never quit art. It won’t let you. Thankfully. Although you might eventually have this dilemma, so we’ll leave it for another article.
There’s an inevitable and often uncomfortable part of art creation that all artists face: knowing when to stop working on a piece. Deciding when it’s finished.
Is there a rule? A formula? Everyone will tell you something different. The fast answer is: there isn’t. But let’s analyze why.
There’s the bunch that will tell you that at some point you have to force yourself to stop because if not, you’ll keep going on forever, that a piece is never truly finished, just abandoned.
Then there’s the bunch that will tell you that you have to keep working on it until you’re satisfied with the piece. That if you feel you have to make changes or adjust things, you should. Always.
But why not take each piece and its context and your context into account?
Let’s see a few examples.
You’re working on a sci-fi piece. You’ve never done anything sci-fi before, so you find many flaws in proportions and mood. But you know you don’t have the technical skills to improve it. Not yet.
Is it better to keep working on it, or maybe leave it and make some studies about the things you need to correct? And then try a new piece. Where will your time and effort be best spent?
You’re working on a piece of a subject you already know, but you’re introducing some new things, ideas that you wanted to try. The piece is turning out all right, but you’re not entirely sure about the stuff you’re adding.
You may revert back to your usual style and finish the piece, or you may keep trying this idea of yours. Maybe success is just around the corner, if you take a good look at it and find what’s not working.
There can be endless cases and situations. Mostly, you should ask yourself this simple question: what’s the goal? Is this a commission? A study of sorts? A just for fun piece? Do you need to finish quickly because you’re selling your work at a fair? All these factors must be taken into consideration. The answer will lie in the why you’re making this particular artwork.
Rules should apply only when they help. If not, the best you can do is analyze each situation and its context, and it will lead you to a better answer than any foreign rule will give you.
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina.