Updated: Oct 20, 2020
As I am developing my artistic skills this question pops up in my mind on every project, "is this done?" I walk away from the project and usually leave it laying out on my drawing table and when I walk by it the next day I see something I want to fix, or I want to add a different color to a portion, or I think it needs more contrast. Then I worry if I am over working it. Now, I have a difficult time trying to figure out if it is really done. So what do I do, I add something else! Then I think, “oh boy I messed that up I better add this to make it better”. I keep going and going and finally I have to force myself to simply STOP! Do you have this issue? Do you know when is the right time to stop?
I started asking my artistic friends how they know when to stop and did some searching around on the internet. I actually found some pretty good advice that I want to share with you. I am going to apply many of these points on my next project and I think they could help you too.
One of the things I learned recently is it is good to have a specific goal in mind before starting the project. Then you will know when to stop because you have achieved that goal. For example, I really enjoy coloring and drawing faces. On my next face project if I have a goal in mind, like to improve the realism of the hair. Knowing this will make it easier for me to know when I am done (or in my case, stop messing around with it). I may tinker around with details on the hair, but my goal is to improve realism of the hair so I wont add more details to the eyes or the neck I will simply focus on making the hair the best I can make it. I can feel satisfied I achieved my goal when looking at the project from this perspective.
I got another good tip from looking around the internet, someone said that they look at their old work and ask themselves what is missing. Maybe it’s contrast, maybe it’s clean edges, or maybe it’s improving the shadows. Whatever you see in your old work that you wish was better now, look at your current project and work on just that one thing. When you have done that one thing then you call it done. If that one thing is already good then again you are done. I really like this idea, because it helps me make sure I am creating progress with my work, but it also tells me I only need to do one thing to be satisfied with the project.
Someone also told me when you are simply just stuck and you dont know how to make it any better, you’re done. I initially thought I have never been in that situation I seem to always see something I could add, change and/or enhance. There are times that I see something needs adjusting or needs to be different altogether but I don’t know how to create what I see in my head to accomplish that. To me, it’s frustrating when I want to add something but don’t know how to get it there. That leads me on to fiddling more with the project. I also heard someone say once is that when you keep adding pointless decorations that detract from the project then its time to stop. That is certainly easier said than done, but I do understand the concept of this notion. Try to remember to ask yourself, what is the focal point of the project and is what you are doing upstaging the focal point.
When I asked Amy at Vanilla Arts how she knows when her project is done, she shared with me,
"For me personally, I put my project into a drawer for several days. When I take it out, I allow myself to fix 3-4 things, but not more. Then it goes back into the drawer again. When I get to the point where I'm not really doing much I’m done."
I thought about how smart that is. Often, I step away from a project like I stated earlier but unlike Amy I have never limited myself to the changes I may come back and make. Amy makes a great point to only allow yourself to fix a max of 4 things each time she takes that project back out of the drawer.
I think this is a great way for me to put boundaries around the fiddling stage. This would help me just stop and be satisfied.
All in all, each of these tips are helpful for me to curb my tendency of fiddling with a project too long. Starting with a goal in mind and then putting it away and when I come back give myself only 3-4 adjustments to make will certainly keep me from riding down that spiraling fiddle path that led me into frustration. I hope these tips are helpful for you too.
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