Here's the roundup of comments to my question-- how do you know when you're finished with a piece of art, or writing, or is it ever really finished at all?
Eric Orchard posted a link to this post a few days ago on his blog and a few people responded over there. With his permission I've included their responses. (Thanks, Eric!)
I intended to comment on the bits and pieces that I personally found helpful, but it became like when you're about to highlight a book and then you realize that it's so good that you'd end up underlining the whole thing. So I'll just say that for me, something from each of your responses hit home.
So-- enjoy, and thanks to everyone who participated! You've affirmed my belief that artists and writers are some of the most generous and helpful people on the planet- not to mention, nicest. (Tear! - as my daughter would say, a la Austin Powers. ;-)
Gail at Through the Studio Door:
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 at The Hermitage:
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 at My Paint Box:
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.
Sara at Read Write Believe:
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.
Liz Scanlon at Liz in Ink:
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...
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.
Hmmmm... that's a good one. I think all artist struggle with that. I guess it comes down to when are you willing to stop (or how tired you are ;o) Sometimes less is better so is very hard to find a balance. I try to give myself permission to stand up and leave it for a while.. and then when you comeback to it, is usually easier to tell if it needs more work or if it is just right.
She's got lots of good thoughts and comments on this one. Others had already said it, so I didn't bother, but for me, it is done when it's due. I guess it's good we have deadlines or maybe we'd never quit working on pieces.
I think it's done when you say so. Except if you change your mind next day. Sometimes it's done when someone else said so and you had a big argument about it and then put something more on just to spite them and then say it's done.