Is it finished?

How do you know when a work is finished?

So I decided to find common questions for artists and write some blog posts about them. This question is a tough one and mainly because the answer is subjective. It’s at the heart of every artist’s voice and style.

First, let’s define creativity: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Each artwork is an original idea. I typically use reference photos when trying to capture a specific subject, but I often change it in different ways. Those changes are unique original changes that I imagine would make something more to my liking. If I am drawing a flower I might add details that weren’t in the reference photo, such as adding additional petals or buds, adding swirling vines or different types of leaves. These are all personal decisions that add up to being my “style” or “voice.”

Every artwork is a combination of decisions. I add crosshatching in specific areas to add dimension or depth. Sometimes I make certain areas darker or lighter to emphasize contrast or define shapes. These decisions are based on what I personally feel makes the artwork more appealing and interesting. But what makes it better to me might not make it better for someone else.

One of the questions and requests that I get a lot of is about adding color. After I have worked and worked on an artwork and have decided to myself that it is finished, a viewer will ask about adding color. Can you add color to it? Technically, yes I could add color.

Once I have decided a artwork is finished that means several things have happened. I drew a sketch based off of a reference photo, began inking and made a variety decisions and choices to get it to look the way it does, and then decided it did or didn’t need color. In my mind color is best on certain pieces. I have not exact formula as to what gets color and what doesn’t. It depends on each individual artwork.

Let’s compare two of the #100daysofart artworks:

I made 2 color decisions here, one for color and one against. The reason the koi have color is because one of the distinguishing characteristics of koi is that they have a pattern on their scales that looks like spilled ink or paint. My medium (ink) totally leans itself to that easily. I chose the iridescent inks because they add a magical quality.

The Jellyfish city is a different kind of artwork. The subject is much more complicated and I don’t want one part of this to show up more than the other. I want the viewer to want to look closer and discover the buildings and details. I want everything to have the same importance. This was a well thought out and purposeful decision.

So, once I make all of those decisions that have meaning and purpose, I then decide the artwork is finished and post it.

Artwork and creativity is not the same as getting your hair colored or your lawn manicured. The decisions are not with the viewer (buyer), but with the artist themselves. They are working on a larger body of work and making decisions based on their experience and view point. When you are buying their work, you are buying their viewpoint and their perspective. A jellyfish or koi could be painted and drawn a million different ways, but you chose a specific version. That specific version has a voice.

In the end, your artist decides when their artwork is “finished.” That’s what makes it their artwork. You want the artist to make those cool interesting decisions because that’s what makes the artwork unique and special in this world. It’s what makes it look the way it does. To ask for changes means that you are asking the artist to change what they would have decided on their own. You’re diluting their style and voice with your own perspective.

The moment that I decide it is finished, it’s like a artist’s fingerprint. It’s identified as mine and makes it part of my body of work. It is an essential part of who I am as an artist.



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