When is it done?

In the typcial ebb and flow of business, i’ve been crazy busy for a while with deadlines and projects and to-do lists….but now find myself in a quiet time. The quiet time is simultaneously scary, paralyzing and welcome. i’m a person who functions well under pressure and on a schedule, so i really have to work to maximize my “down time” and actually get things completed. To that end, i decided i’d work on a personal collection i’ve been envisioning for a while. It’s a series of soft, loose watercolor portraits with some of my sketchy pencil/ink sketches overlaid on top.

Here is the watercolor portrait practice i posted recently…stage 1, if you will….no sketched bits added yet….


See, to me, it is not finished.

It COULD be finished. It’s a portrait alright. But to MY vision…it is still incomplete. I haven’t yet fully realized my goal.

i often post works in progress because 1) i like sharing process, 2) people usually enjoy seeing them (i know i love watching other artist’s process pics!) and 3) for practical reasons. i’m not always popping out finished artwork every day, so sharing progress is a good way to stay in touch when i have lots of half-baked artworks going and nothing complete to share : )

Here’s the thing; folks on social media who see a work in progress will often tell me to “STOP!!! Call it done! Put down the brushes and pens, lady!” And trust me, i get it!! i often hear these very same phrases in my OWN head, truth be told! But deciding when an artwork is done is sort of a tricky business. Is it done when it looks “pretty enough?” Is it done when the majority of people you show it to say it’s done?Is it done when you get a “feeling” that it is? Is it done when it matches what you had in mind? hmmm…..

Being a working artist who obviously wants to sell my work, do i listen most intently to the folks who support me and my business? Their input is super important to me! i mean, i certainly respect and am grateful for these folks. i wouldn’t exist in this career without them! So, i sure do hope that the art i make is something they love.

Or do i listen to the small voice in my head that says….”hey, remember that idea you had before you fell asleep the other night? Don’t you want to find out how that would turn out? Don’t you want to follow through on your creative vision?”

Agh! What is the answer!?

Is there only one right answer?

i could go ’round in circles for days wondering on this one….and i have. On the one hand, i don’t want to water down my artistic point of view. But on the other hand, i am mindful that getting to make art everyday for my business is a blessing, and it IS as much a business as it is a creative exercise.

So, having said all this, i think i’ve come to the conclusion that:

- client work is a careful blend of my vision and the client’s heart – so mutual agreement and respect about done-ness is a-ok in those situations. i mean, one of my favorite things to do with my art is take on commissions that help folks tell their story…i can’t do that from inside myself and without input. Sharing that experience with a customer feels like nothing else.

- but, personal work has to be guided by my inner voice, and i have to feel free to try whatever i’m feeling…even if it doesn’t work out…..even if i “wreck it.” : )  i don’t ever want to stop at the “safe” stopping point just because i was afraid to try the new idea or wacky technique….or just because i thought the safer route would sell well, etc. That would kill my spirit.

So i guess my conclusion is that there is no ONE way that is always right, at least for me. There is a little room for wiggle.

What do you all think? Is there room for wiggle when calling your art “done?” Is it lacking authenticity if your customer helps in the decision making? Or is that part of the beauty?

i really want to hear! : )


  1. says

    Definitely go with your inner voice or you will feel like crap about it later & be upset you put art out there that wasn’t quite what you wanted

  2. says

    Tough question it is!!
    So many people, with so many styles and opinions about art is ‘prettiest’.
    I think I would just follow your own instinct as an artist! Your style is your signature on your work, whether people like it or not. The people who like your style will be your fans, just like other people like other kind of artists who have a different style.
    Stay confident, follow your heart and your dreams! I love your work!

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