Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Are We Done Yet? (An Informal Poll)

Yesterday Eric Orchard posted a wonderful step-by-step on how he creates a painting. (Check it out-- his work is gorgeous!) I was curious about how he knew when a piece was finished, because that's something I always struggle with both in my illustration and my writing. Here was his answer:

I can't say specifically when I'm done with a painting. I think it has to do with contrast and tone. The composition looks done to me when the forms jump out and are distinct against the negative space and when the tone/shading looks convincingly three dimensional.

I love keeping thoughts like this in mind when I'm working (thus my addiction to art/writing/creativity books...) It's a great way to keep your work evolving.

So-- here's my informal poll: How do you know when you're done with a piece of art? Or writing? Or are they really ever "finished" at all? I'd love to hear your thoughts-- I'll post them all later!


Unknown said...

Thanks Jennifer! I posted a link from my blog. I can't wait to hear the results.

gail said...

Great topic! I think I need to link and blog about it too.

I don't always know when a piece is really done either. Sometimes I over work things. I really think there are times when we don't want to stop working on a piece because we've become attached to it. (I know on a recent piece I went back and re-did her eyes even though I thought they were finished long before.)

I also think we need to get used to the work being done. If I can set it aside and come back to it later and it still feels done, then it's done!

And then there are deadlines. :) They can make you decide a piece is finished real quick!

"...are they ever really finished..."
I think in most cases we can always look back on a piece and find something we're not happy with or we would handle differently. But I think that's a good thing! It's what helps you grow as an artist.


Rima Staines said...

Ahh, the eternal dilemma :) I can easily over worry a painting.. but I find the gut feeling of knowing when it's NOT done is always clearer than knowing when it IS. I guess I just keep going until the "not done" feeling goes away :)
Very hard to put your finger on it.
Deadlines are helpful because then it HAS to be done! :)

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Jennifer, I followed this over from Eric's blog. I am a painter not an illustrator, but we all have the same issues sometimes.
I always say it takes two people to make a painting. One to paint it and the other to tell them to stop.
I'll often set a piece aside when I think I am about 90% done. When I look at it with a fresh eye, more often than not, what I thought I could keep going on is not necessary.
I tend to want to keep going and make it perfect, but I am learning that there is no perfect and what is left out can be just as important in art.
I know with illustration you are expected to reach your signature "Look" so it can be different. I can stop at any time or look I want.
Great question, so I thought I would ad my two cents for what it's worth.
I see that a lot of people set a work aside for a while to look at it fresh.
I like your work by the way.

Sara said...

Writers struggle with this, too. I find that I want both clarity and mystery in my poems, and if I overwork them, I get neither. For novels, it's tougher, because there are so many places you could polish and polish, but I think I'm still looking for the same two things: the story line runs clearly through the book, but it has a layer of mysterious otherness---beauty, if you want to call it that.

I also think of it like music---a clear theme with enough overtones to make it full and rich.

And yes, a deadline helps. So does an editor/agent combing over it until you're both sick to death of it.

And one more thing---a feeling of detachment, as if I didn't really write the work at all. My words look slightly alien, independent, as if I've let them go and they've become something true and alive.

Jennifer Thermes said...

Wow-- I was out most of the day- what a treat to come home to everyone's comments. I'm reading each one and saying- yes- that's great! And, yes- that's great, too!

I'll post all the comments on Friday. (If there are more after that I'll do another one.)

Thanks, everyone! This is so interesting. :-)

(And Frank- thank you! I like your paintings, too- especially the mood that your colors evoke.)

Jennifer Thermes said...

Oh-- and Gail, link and blog away! The more the merrier.

Anonymous said...

Answer #1: Never. Still want to tweak things that are in print.

But Answer #2: when I go back to the most recent version BEFORE the one I'm working on. Usually then I've wrung all the goodness out of it and I need to inject some back in...

Little Willow said...

Hi there! I clicked over from Sara's blog.

This sounds very odd - rather, looks very odd, when just reading instead of hearing me say it out loud - but I just know when it's done. I know my endings in advance and work towards them. I'm my own worst critic, but I just know.

Jennifer Thermes said...

Hi Liz and Little Willow- thanks for adding your thoughts!