Sometimes you just need to call it finished. A good friend contacted me last night with a humorous cry for help. At least I think it was humorous. He was finishing an absolutely brilliant painting. This is a piece that would have made Van Gogh proud (and I meant that!). He’s a great artist and this piece was one of his best. He wasn’t looking for advice. He’s better than me and I don’t think I could actually help him with art stuff, but this I could do. You see what he really wanted was just for me to tell him to stop, that it was done, and he could call it that and move on.
Like I say, I am pretty sure he was kidding, but I’ve been there, how about you? You create something and you like it, but you start to pick it apart. You tweak it here, tweak it there and after a while you’ve gone way too far. In some cases, you’ve even wrecked it. I’ve done it so often that back in the day when I was doing a lot more freelance work, I knew there came a point where I had to ship something and never look at it again or I would tweak it to death. Even today when I speed paint, if I’m not the last part of the program or service and I have to look at what I’ve done for any length of time, I start to pick it apart. We can’t afford to do that.
It’s hard not to do this. Deep inside we want to do our best work and a lot of us are never happy with our work. This is largely because there is a gap between what we were actually able to accomplish and the product we see in our minds. Or sometimes perfectionism rears its ugly head. So what can we do about it? Well maybe we need to do what my friend did and get someone else to have a look at it. This is especially helpful if you are your own worst critic. It is also helpful if you’re just not sure about a piece. A lot of times I think this happens because we are too close to it and we need someone from the outside to show us the flaws or tell us we’ve succeeded.
Every piece of art goes through an awkward stage, and most artists long for a day when there is a machine that can read out thoughts and create exactly what we see in our minds, but one of the keys to artistic happiness is learning to love our work and know when it is time to call it done and move on. One thing I know for sure, I’m usually the only one to see the flaws in my art and the people I create it for, love the work in spite of it. This is probably the case for you too. So make your best work and know yourself. When you find yourself over tweaking, it’s time to hang it up, literally, and call it done.
Love your work enough to let it go.