“A work of art … is never really finished; it is abandoned.”
– Brooke McEldowney
I love this quote – it’s so true. The hardest part of making art is knowing when and how to stop. Especially when you reach a point in a piece where you really like it but feel something else needs to be done. How often do these next steps spell then end of that piece? Eventually one gets timid and the pile of almost-finished pieces grows.
You may have heard the advice that when a piece is 75% complete, it’s done. Of course, the challenge is that it’s impossible to tell when that point arrives because it implies you know how much further you could go. The optimist in us believes that a few more little changes will make all the difference, while the pragmatic side of us wonders if we should just leave well enough alone.
In many ways I think it has become harder to know when to stop. Less representational work doesn’t give us much help in knowing when we’ve achieved a sufficient likeness. If your work involves digital tools, there are so many and so many capabilities, that the possibilities become endless. For photographers, in the old darkroom, there was only so much you could do with the limited tools you had. Now, one can go on and on, endlessly tuning, tweaking, testing, twisting… It takes a lot of discipline and good judgement these days to know when it’s done.
Like much of modern life, we have more possibility, more capability and more complexity in the art world these days. Not sure that’s better, it’s just the way it is…