Sometimes when I look at a piece I have been working on, even when it is “finished”, there is something “missing”. It is “ok”. It kind of looks “done”, but hmm. And then I think, “What if?. What if I added something there, bolded this area out there, put this little bit in there. Why not? What stops us as artists from playing with a work further, experimenting and adding? When you work on a piece for a period of time, especially in oils when you sometimes have to wait days or weeks for a layer to set in the drying process, that hesitation comes from the “what if I totally screw it up and ruin the whole damn thing” fear. What if I take it from “ok” into the “crap what I have done holy mess” zone? I just spent weeks, sketching, layering, adding, lovingly adding brush stroke or palette texture only to foul the piece up to “I HATE it”.
Fear is the enemy of an artist. When we fear, we fail to push, to reach, to stretch, to grow. It is natural to like working within a comfort zone, to keep things safe. I am not a representational artist by any means. Everything I do, even when there is an intent for it to be recognizable as something specific comes filtered through my vision and interpretation. But even then, I have these preset subconscious boundaries that I have placed on myself somewhere in the depths of my psyche. The best example is my latest “finished” painting, “Whispers”, one of my forest interpretations, where the feeling and spirit of the forest is presented through colour and flowing line to convey the emotion one feels when presented with that magical majesty of old growth trees.
It could have been considered complete as I presented it last time, but looking at it something was bugging me and I was dissatisfied with the final image. I was hesitant to go at it again, because then you risk taking thing too far, adding too much, and fail to self edit. To leave it or not to leave it? To sit looking at it always wondering what it was that was irking me about it, or risk “ruining” it and going overboard? And that my friends is where the intuitive spirit as I like to call it takes over. You see, I don’t think we can really “ruin” a work. We can change it, we can push it in a way that we may not like as a final product, but if we do not ever, take those risks, then we will never grow. It once again comes down to there are no failures, there are no mistakes, it is all part of process.