Beginnings and Endings


Graffitix, 9 x 9″ acrylics, ink

“Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them.”

– Joseph Joubert

Do you feel excited when finishing a painting? Do you feel like you are in the grip of a creative impulse? How would you compare your feelings, emotions, state of mind at the end of the painting process to what they are when you start a piece?

If you are like me, they tend to be very different. When you start a piece, something has probably inspired you to take a particular direction. There are many possibilities ahead of you, nothing is beyond your reach. You are in the full embrace of your creative potential. By the time you are nearing the end of a piece, so many choices have been made, almost all of the possibilities eliminated. Perhaps the original inspiration has been lost along the way. Maybe you are already thinking about the next piece and don’t feel very motivated to put more time into this one, even though you feel it needs … something else.

It is hard work to finish a piece. Whatever experience you’ve had getting to this point is with you and that may be tinged with disappointment, bewilderment or frustration. And then there is the figuring out of when to stop – it’s so easy to stop short of what is necessary or to continue on well past that point.

As Joubert says, this is where the hard work occurs, often without benefit of the support of the creative spark that got you started. But we must cross that finish line each and every time, if only to be able to start the next piece. There’s always another painting waiting for us.

6 responses to “Beginnings and Endings

  1. I like your work very much, and I also like the neat quotes you insert in your posts.

    I find when my mundane life is not going well I cannot focus on art, and lose confidence in my seemingly fragile ability to create anything worthwhile. When all is right, I “know” I am creating something and I have faith that it is a good something. The inner tension feels like joy, the deep wellspring of joy that is childlike in its faith that this thing I am making will work.

  2. Each of us have different creative processes, I suppose… I do work on at least 3-4 works at one definite time, I let them rest… I work again at the same piece, maybe after a day or two, maybe after a month or two… For me, starting and finishing is not a continuous process…

    And, curiously, I did some of my best things when I was totally depressed and almost mad! drawing, painting did a great thing to my mental health and though I doubt often, I still KNOW when I did something valuable… A “sonderklasse”, as Paul Klee called them… Exceptional works. Of course, that’s quite rare…

    I like the richness of texture and the rare, delicate colors of that piece, bob. And the chinese/japonese stuff does a lot of good…

  3. 4roomsandthemoon-

    Thanks for the kind words – it is a challenge to feel creative when real-world problems arise. Sometimes making art can help work out such challenges and other times it’s best to give artmaking a rest.


    I also like to have several pieces in progress at various stages of completion. I think there is a spectrum of completion, as you suggest, and this allows me to engage with the piece that needs what I’m ready to offer. It’s too easy to get bogged down on a single piece that is posing problems for you.

  4. Bob, I enjoy the “parallelism” i feel when you describe your creative process, comparing it to my own. I’ve noticed this with miki too, so many similarities between Music and Art – much more than the obvious. i will readily agree that the first burst of creative enthusiasm rarely continues through to the project’s completion, indeed, many of my songs are ONLY finished as a result of hard work, not inspiration! I do remember one song, (I’ve been re-visiting it recently, coincidentally) called “Smalltown Girl” that i wrote with my old guitarist many years ago. it also featured my daughter , then 5 years old laughing on it. The whole process was, I remember vividly, a wild ride of creativity, idea after idea was thrown into the pot, and almost all of them worked. a great, but rare, occasion!

  5. Kev

    I’ve also been impressed by the similarities you describe in your artistic process to those of us visual artists. I’ve been reading this book by Eric Maisel, a creativity “guru” or coach, and he talks about all kinds of artists – writers, actors, painters, musicians. He even gave an example with a mathematician (Miki, take note!). When we can look past the product of our creativity to the process itself and our feelings about it, I suspect there is more in common than not.

  6. This piece is so packed with imagery, I could look at it every day and see something new!
    I usually have almost given up on my paintings several times before I’m finished. They take so many “wrong” turns in the process. And then, when I really arrive at that “finished” place I am usually quite happy with the result. I can’t explain this. But this is the reason I have a lot more started paintings than finished ones.

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