When do you know your project is done?

When do you know your project is done?


I go through this argument in my head on every project, am I done with this yet? Each phase of my project I am looking at what steps I need to make it complete. I typically start with a sketch, then I add watercolor then I finish up with colored pencil details. It's always a dance about how much is enough or too much and deciding if I am really done.

The first phase of my project is building my sketch. I start with a Prismacolor Col-Erase pencil. I like using Tuscan Red I don't know why it's just my favorite pencil that works for me. I don't have issues of putting watercolor over it and I can build colors on it easy. Maybe next year I will have a new favorite pencil I use but for now this tends to work for me. In my sketch I use the one pencil to not only build the structure of the face, but I also mark in the values of the face. The great thing about the Col-Erase pencil is that there is an eraser on the end, so I use it frequently. I usually figure out how much value I need by darkening an area or using the eraser to lighten it. Usually, I sketch in about an hour or so trying to take my time getting it to the image I see in my head or my reference. It is hard to stop my sketching because I want to add lots of details now, but I know I will be covering it with watercolor. To me this first phase helps me to see the vision of my project without color. I do struggle knowing when to stop and move to the next phase, but I tend to stop when I say to myself that these details are a waste of time because I will be painting over it and these details need to be done with colored pencils in the end.

Once I am happy with the sketch then I start to watercolor. This part is new for me as I am a newbie to this medium, but I am having fun exploring it. I love mixing my watercolors to come up with a color that looks good. I love layering colors on top of each other to create textures, shapes and/or shadows. The challenge here for me is to keep the essence of my project. Sometimes as color is added it changes the mood or a shape. This is where I can make a face look rounder than I did in the sketch or the eyes will look different than my sketch. As I am exploring the medium, I am making mistakes that I am constantly correcting or trying something to create a shape or color I am looking for. During this phase I probably spend too much time on it but I tend to keep adding color. The problem I find here is that I seem to change the look slightly. Most times I make my subject look older than the original sketch. Not a whole lot older just a few years. It's funny I am always trying to analyze what happened that made them a little older. Again, I spend time looking at details to see when I am done with this phase. I think about whether I need to go darker with my colors or where I can add more watercolor that will save me time from adding layers of colored pencils. I don't think I know when it is the right time to stop yet but if I think I am starting to ruin my project then I stop.

The last phase I have in my projects is adding colored pencil. I look at areas in the watercolor that need more details or where I need to darken more or add highlights. This is where the project changes again. It surprises me every time how much small pencil details can change the project. Even small details around the eyes can add so much emotion that speaks to the viewers that I cannot seem to get with just watercolor alone. I use pencils to define edges better either creating crisp edges or smoothing out the edges. I am always looking for spots where I can add these details. So typically, I take my time on this part. I work on it with pencils for a while then I stop and walk away. When I come back with fresh eyes I can see where there are details to add or corrections I still want to make. I tend to do this several times. This is really when my inner voice is arguing with me about how much is too much or not enough and when to simply stop. I try hard to keep myself from going overboard but it is soooo hard. Then there are times I am so excited about the project and I finish too soon because I just want to finish it now because I like it so much. Then later I find myself regretting I stopped so soon because I see areas I should have corrected. Usually at this point of the project I ask my husband and my BFF what they see. I use them as a barometer as it's a good point to simply stop.


Knowing when to stop is a tough question for me but I look back at my process to help me see when I should have stopped. What was necessary and what wasn't. Typically, I take process pictures throughout the project. These pictures have been invaluable for me to analyze my process and help me to see how my project changes throughout. I see looking back that I need more practice with my watercolor work as it made a dramatic turn in that phase. Although the end result was not bad, but it definitely changed from the original sketch. It's a good thing I love to practice - I will keep on practicing and analyzing to keep growing.

What's happening in the Corner . . .


Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you are attracted to an image, so much so that you want to color it too? Whether it is whimsical or realistic, chances are it's the shading of the image that caught your attention. Join us this month as we focus our practice on the creation of clean edges and smooth color transitions.

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Clean Edges & Smooth Color Transitions here.

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