I recently posed the simple question “How do you know when a work of art or a project is done” to a group of artists/creatives on facebook. Here’s the answers and conversation that came out of asking this seemingly simple question.
Want to know more about an artist or “friend” them on facebook? Click their image to go to websites and their names to go to facebook pages.
As you’ll see “done” is a big topic. In January there will be a couple of posts looking at specific aspects of being “done.”
Please feel free to keep the conversation going here on the ProNagger blog.
-Rachel Z Cornell
I use a meat thermometer.
When it’s good enough to work, or get the job done. I’m not a believer in ‘perfection’.
Rachel Z. Cornell
…I all but asked for that answer didn’t I Beth? Danny, so if it works, it’s done?
I think Leonardo said…”Art is never finished, only abandoned” I agree with Danny. There’s always more that could be done, but you have to let it go at some point or you’ll drive yourself mad.
Yes. What Mr. Dees said. I agree completely.
I usually go through some transition between “I hate this” and “this is good” – after that it’s editing that can go on as long I have time or energy. It’s usually a deadline that makes me finish…
When the Muse shifts its gaze to the next creation.
Patricia Swearingen Hecker
When my breathing turns from rhythmic to a deep sigh that says ‘ah, this is it’. Then, I know I’m done.
It’s never “done” – just good enough. If i seek perfection then It’ll never see the light of day. As long as it’s good enough I can move on to another project. 🙂
There is a state when you go into a more relexed state and think “OK! That could be a possible end result. But, there may be some smale things you could tweek to made it more perfect in your point of view.” Another problem will be if some others don’t understand the “private space of objects” concept in design as well as the attempted of simplicity. Just find a space to fill with something is easy – to leave it empty is very hard.
Rachel Z. Cornell
I’m starting to hear a few themes, or maybe styles. One is that something shifts inside of the person creating. I’m getting that form Allan, Chiip, Patricia and Matthias. There seems to be a felt sense that it’s time to stop. Or, the feeling for the project shifts. Anything done after that shift is picking at the work, or perhaps even over working it. There’s the good enough theme too. I rather say “done enough” cause some how “good enough” sounds like you’re quitting and that’s not at all what I hear Danny, Michael and Alexia is saying. Michael summed this theme up great “you have to let it go at some point or you’ll drive yourself mad.”… See More Beth, well, she has a method all her own!
Since less is usually more, I try to stop just before I think I should. I say this, though, after having reworked 9 or 10 paintings. Having not looked at them in a while, it sometimes takes a period of rest from a piece to get out of the subjective in into the objective. Usually the things I do to improve a painting are minor but make a big difference.
Ironically I just had a conversation with someone about this. It is the hardest thing I have learned about making art. For me it is a feeling or sense that all of the parts are working together. If I set a piece aside that is “done,” I may come back to it and see that, indeed, it is not. But the hardest part is to not OVER DO it. Once that has happened, it is hard to un-do.
We attended an exhibit called “The Art of The Insane” at the Lowe Museum in Miami many years ago. The artists were all from an insane asylum in Germany. It seemed as though the artists couldn’t stop.
The process can be so FUN, that it can easily spill into over-doing before one knows it. It is a practiced eye and feeling.
Rachel Z. Cornell
I so understand what Larry and Cynthia are saying. Stepping away from something for a while gives me a new perspective. I’ve been finding that especially since I’ve been working on this book. My words need time to rest, like bread dough.
Rachel Z. Cornell
Hey Gail! That sounds like it was a fascinating show. I worked at a Center for Independent Living for a while in Ann Arbor. While there we did an art show and the artist with considerable mental illness did indeed have a hard time stopping!
good question Rachie! A few things come to mind for me, some pieces have to make me laugh, and then I know I hit the sweet spot. Others “rest” like your dough, and one day simply grab you by the hand/brain and tell you what they need. Either way, it’s a great conversation.
The creative process is riddled with many anxious moments – the final moment being the “Real Mother”!
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned” –Paul Valery. My creative process developed when I studied poetry in college, so that’s how I create art. I always see things I could’ve or should’ve done in work that had been abandoned to collectors, family, or friends years ago or even last month. Embracing the attitude of Valery helps me accept the… See More nature of my creative process. Having a career marked by successive relentless deadlines forces me to reach the point of abandonment before overworking becomes an issue. Walt Whitman first published “Leaves of Grass” in 1855. He then spent the next 33 years of his life revising and expanding it with 8 more “official” publications. What is considered to to be the first great work of “American” poetry started out as 12 poems and ended up with close to 400 poems–If only he had a deadline.
Lynn, I get that, it’s not either or. Something that you said and others have alluded to gave me a thought. Maybe it’s hard to know when we’re done, we just know when we’re not. Vincent, YES! I think that anxiety, unease or times when no one can talk to us cause we’re all in our head….whatever it is, is our brains wanting to answer a question. I think creatives are good at “opening a question.” The question being, what will this be when it leaves my hands. How can we get to that “Real Mother” moment? Well the human brain, designed by evaluation to imagine and resolve goes to work. Until we’re satisfied, have an answer, we feel some level of stress. We both love and are uncomfortable with a question without an answer.… See More I really think this is true. Here’s a simple example. Knock, knock….
Rachel Z. Cornell
Oh I can so see the parallels Joe! I’ve gotten a few articles published now and ever time I see something in print I wish I used a different word someplace or see whole sentences I could have done with out. Same thing with my art, often it’s an edit I could have done. DEADLINES! Yes! Love them and sometimes hate them. I think I’m going to print … See Moreoff you’re eloquent Walt Whitman example and keep it near me when I’m writing. There are people, however, who are always saying “I could have done better if I only had more time.” I think that can be a trap, or a way to never have a clear evaluation of ones ability. What do you think?
Rachie, I love this dialogue! You are such a great writer and moderator. Where can we read your articles???
Rachel Z. Cornell
Thanks Lynnie, this is what happens when get a cool group of creative minds around a keyboard and toss out a topic! The articles I’ve had are nothing special, I’ve had a couple excepted with Ezine Articles. I’m going to be posting this conversation on my site to be published on Monday. If anyone “does not” want me to link to your site let me know. If you visit this note before Monday and want me to link to your name, would you give me your web address, otherwise I’ll look it up.
The biggest question in making art for me is – how long can I sustain the state that I’m expressing? If I can tell that I’m losing this state, I stop right there. I usually determine which is the most tricky part of the execution of the art, and I do that part first. If there’s enough there that is the … See Moreevidence of an intentionally sustained state, the art flies. If not, I wait until I can come around to “inhabiting” that state again, and continue. Generally, if the state is a familiar one, I can continue indefinitely – I just keep making more art. If it’s an unfamiliar state, again, it’s a matter of a sense of stillness when the art is “done” for me. Much of my art is like a puzzle that needs to have all the pieces in place to be “done.” I have another technique. I’ll write or make the art, the song…edit it etc. Then I’ll let it sit, before I show it to anyone else. When I experience it again, that’s when I judge it. Especially when I write, I like to reread it after it’s been off my mind long enough to forget about it. It’s only at that time that I will decide it’s good enough to fly. If it doesn’t make the grade, I dissect and use parts of it in new creations.
Our culture focuses almost entirely on the final product unlike Eastern cultures that give as much significance to the process as to the finished piece. It is difficult for me to know “when to stop… See More” but it’s not as difficult as “how to start”. If I focus on the process rather than the starting and stopping I find that each piece merges into the next and the work continues without a break and starting and stopping is not an issue. Of course this is easier said than done. Then there’s this: http://26hm.sl.pt
Gayle Bell Fascinating conversation Rachel. I tend to agree with the Leonardo quote about art never being finished, just abandoned. The flame will burn itself out on whatever project I’m working on and it becomes useless to continue to flail away at it–best to go on to something else with a renewed sense of excitement. I’m trying to cultivate the mind-set… See More of “wabi sabi,” the aesthetic that beauty/art is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, in order to quell my tendency to obsessively belabor a painting into some sort of elusive perfection–an ultimately unattainable goal and waste of energy
I often just go with my instincts. Also many of my explorations are perpetual in nature–the work is “complete” at one time and then I take all or a part of it to create new work. It’s similar to a memory that will sometimes creep into daily life–often subconsciously. So, you have a new experience, but with a bit of the past mixed in. Also, the work usually has to be flawed in some way for me to really like it. I agree with Dale’s note–the process is the most interesting part for me.
Matthew W. Cornell
I usually know when I am done when I can no longer stand to look at my painting. I think abandoned is a good word. Very eloquent what you wrote, Joe. I don’t know much about poetry or Whitman, but maybe he saw his work like nature, in flux, in motion, always changing, but existing in the now. We seem to have the need… See More to put a period at the end of every sentence, every task. Nature doesn’t know time exists. It just is. There is no past or future. Only the present. Art can be the same way. It can be limited only by the life span of the creator. It’s done when I’m dead. You can sign it after I’m gone. Put a period at the end of that.
Well, a book is finished about 3 weeks after the publisher says it’s absolutely deadline drop dead due. My kind of writing isn’t exactly art, not like fiction would be, but it’s a lot of fun and hard work and getting it right, and it has design, and you know the right words, the right sentences from the ones that don’t work. I spent a few years in … See Morecollege painting and some of the feelings are similar. Except you keep seeing a painting and I’d drive myself crazy seeing something new that had to be done every time I walked away from it so I’d go back. Didn’t get much sleep.
Rachel Z. Cornell Franis, I like the idea of giving work some simmer time and to come back to it later with fresh eyes. Dale, I actually think it’s just one entwined process, with no real clear starting or ending. I think there are just stages of a cycle. Then…there’s that cartoon! Gayle, three cheers for “wabi sabi!” Kind of frees to have permission to do it imperfectly. … See More Dina, that’s very poetic. An older piece can inform and/or become a part of a new work, like a memory becomes integrated into a new experiences. Matthew, I love this “We seem to have the need to put a period at the end of every sentence.” Barbara, I think what you said about some of the feelings being similar with painting and writing is interesting. I have said the same thing! Sounds like for you, painting might have sent you over the edge though. 🙂
I know that it’s done when I get lost in the piece, my hand hovering over the work, ready to work some more, but there is nothing left to do…