I have a lot of unfinished artwork sitting around my studio, and even in closets. I can lose fuel or even conviction with a piece, particularly when hitting that common “ugly” stage of development. I often need to refresh my vision and consider putting an artwork away for tackling another day. Yet, sometimes I attempt to fumble through the mess, becoming visually lost and adding to the chaos. This can take an artwork in an undesirable direction and teach me yet another painful lesson in creating with patience.
I still find value in the advice of a respected college art prof of mine, Dr. Arthur Williams, who suggested that when hitting a dead end in creating, “…place your unfinished artwork at the foot of your bed so that its the last thing seen at night and the first thing seen in the morning.” He claimed that after staring at it for a period of time, the next step would eventually become clear.
“… take the painting out of the studio and prop it up somewhere else. Look at the work critically, without the temptation of paints and brushes being at hand. Stare at it for periods of time, or try to catch glimpses of it over the course of a day.” – Dudley
I have also come across the advice supporting the opposite, a prolonged absence from the piece…
“It can help to go one stage further than this and put the painting away where you cannot see it for a period of time. Seeing it again after a prolonged absence can really help you to assess the painting as it is, rather than as what you think it is. Experience has shown this is useful in spotting where adjustments might be needed. Time away from a painting can be as important as time spent with it.”
– Sian Dudley, “Knowing when your painting is done”, Artists & Illustrators Magazine
I have to say that whichever approach I decide to take depends a lot on the specific artwork and my feelings at the given moment. Sometimes a work can cause me so much frustration, that I have to put it out of my sight for a while so as to save it from an immediate fate of the garbage bin. Other works, keep me more intrigued and willing to pursue, so having them in my sight daily doesn’t bring me as much angst as anticipation. Either way, it is an art discerning process.
Therefore, I leave you by reiterating the quote above, “…Time away from a painting can be as important as time spent with it.”