Shop Talk

Open Discussion: How Do You Know When Your Artwork is Finished?

In a recent post, our blogger Chris shared with us, step by step, an illustration that for him, was a battle to complete. He said:

I could argue that I only abandon my bad ideas, those ones that even if finished wouldn’t be interesting or worth the effort. These projects are better off started and left behind rather than thought of and ignored. I can always go back and finish them, use what works for another project. I would say I agree except I know better. This argument would be right if I only have a few abandoned works, but I have a ton.

Truth is I’m missing out on the hours and experience of trying new things and working through that wall I tend to hit. I’m missing out on maturing as an artist and getting better. I shouldn’t need the date on a file to tell me that, but sometimes a bonehead like myself needs that little nudge.

We all have moments of wanting to give up on a project. Toss it aside and start something new but the real question is, when do you know that it’s the right decision? Is it ever the right thing to do?

"Ania" by annegare

Now, what Chris discussed in the fittingly titled “The Plight of Finishing What You Started” was the difficulty of actually seeing a project through to the end, for better or worse.

But what about those projects that aren’t a chore to complete, but something that could easily go on forever? What if, like Caden Cotard’s lifesize play in Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant and underrated Synecdoche, New York, you, the artist, simply couldn’t stop working?

When is enough, enough? How do you know that you’re done?

This is something I’ve always wondered about when it comes to visual art, and I’d love to hear what you think. Do you find it difficult to say, “all done” on your latest work? How exactly do you know you’ve added just the right amount finishing touches so as not to go overboard? There’s always the risk of overdoing it, or editing the heart out of a piece, so how do you avoid this?

Please let us know and discuss in the comments below.

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Jen Durant

Redbubble Artist Relationship Manager