Good enough or finished?

A while back I was working on a landscape painting. It was mostly a practice painting. Lots of greens, trees, hillsides, with a path wandering through it. I spent a few hours on it. Getting my hands to do what I wanted them to do… and I called it done. I was finished with it. Could some areas be improved on? Sure. However my expectations for it were low since I never intended it to be a masterpiece(in terms of my skill level), just some skill work. I signed it, showed it to my lovely wife, set it on the counter on the kitchen to finish drying, and moved on with my evening.

A while later my daughter walked by, picked it up, looked at it for a moment and said “It’s nice but it doesn’t look finished…”. Ah teenagers, telling it like it is.

So… when is something done? Should each piece of artwork be maximum effort? My watercolor instructor in college would walk by, ask if I was finished with a painting. When I would say that I thought I was she would suggest dropping a wash of some color… over there. I would shrug, think that I couldn’t see how that would improve it. Once the wash was applied it was obvious how it improved things. I was just too close to the painting to see it. Sometimes you just need to step back and leave it be to know if it needs something else.

Then there is the flip side of it. You’re sure that you are done except “oh! If I add “this” thing to it it will be just amazing!” you know it in your heart. The problem is you’ve never used that technique, drawn/painted/sketched/inked that thing. So you grab your sketchbook, or a scrap of paper and you work on it and you try to figure it out and you do. You think you do at any rate. Do you risk ruining the whole thing? Hours of work. All that emotion of the horror of it all! And then you do and it works, or it doesn’t and you’ve ruined it. You scanned it first right? Gotta be able to make prints out of it at the very least.

It’s in that decision to forge ahead and take a chance that growth as an artist occurs. In anything really. Risk leads to growth.

So for me I accepted my daughter’s challenge and I took the leap and it worked. Or at least I think so. What do you think? Do you feel growth is in the risk taken like I do?

I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Good enough?
Finished?

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