Learning to let your work go

I hate leaving artwork unfinished.  I hate spending any amount of time on anything just to scrap it. It feels like it was a waste of time, and worse, because it doesn’t look the way that you want, that I’ve failed as an artist.  This is sometimes how art blocks happen.

This will probably be as far as this piece will get.

Artwork sometimes feels like a living thing, like a beloved pet that you want to nurture and take care of.  You mold it from your experiences, and watch it take shape into something you hope will be beautiful and meaningful.  And sometimes, what you imagine isn’t the same as what your brain and fingers give you.  That was the case with the Blaylocks above, from the movie “The Hunger”. I was on an 80’s theme, and I remembered I had always wanted to do fan art of Bowie and Deneuve from the movie.  It was important to me to do them justice, though. And as much as I overworked these lines, I was getting frustrated because I didn’t like how it was looking.

I get frustrated with this. So many times, I’ll work on a drawing to a point where it is obviously overworked. How many times do I go back and perform marquee tool and transform surgery on misshapen body parts until it looks right. Why is this character’s head angle wrong? Why is one foot bigger than the other? What’s going on with that finger? There’s a point where one just wants to flip a table… 

Repeat this process while mentally banging your head against your imaginary wall over and over and it starts to become a not very pleasant experience. I’m a little bit obsessed with needing to see things mostly finished, and when I’m not happy with something by the end of a night it eats at me until I can work on it again.  This obviously isn’t healthy.

Lately, I’ve been trying to slow down. I’ve been spending more and more time with drawings, working on finer details and trying to be patient. I’m taking a few nights instead of a few hours to work on a piece and the quality shows. I’m not currently experiencing an art block. As mentioned before, I’m taking some of my pieces a little bit more slowly, stopping at a point so I can look at it with “fresh eyes” another day.

Sometimes, no matter how much time I give it, it still isn’t working out. And after a while, like a bad TV show, I no longer want to return to the drawing. I don’t know if I’ve given up completely on it, but I want to work on other things.

I’ve decided to let myself do just that. I’ve learned to accept that it’s okay to let go of a personal project that isn’t working out and move onto something new.  Life is short, and sometimes that art block is just immovable so it’s better to just look at the shiny and inviting new thing instead.

Do you let go of artwork that isn’t working for you, or do you power through regardless?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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