The most frequently asked question I hear from students is this:
“How do I know when to stop painting… how do I know when it’s finished?
This is a question I’ve really considered over the past 15 years and I believe I have found the simplest answer: When the going gets good, pronounce the TOC and walk away! Let me explain….
Like you, I’ve experienced a life with highs and lows, good times and bad. One of these lower points had lead me into a counselling group for parenting a “troubled” teen. Addictive behaviour I learned, can be a result of the body’s chemistry: a stimulus that gets the brain excited is causing the body to release endorphins and dopamine which feels great!
Unfortunately, when the body isn’t producing the chemicals needed for that rush, our“addictive centres” in our brains, can cause us to remember the stimulus that created it the last time and renders us powerless at the need to regain that wonderful feeling. I am so grateful to report that it all turned out well for me and my family but the parallels I began to draw from that experience lead me to the perfect answer to my students’ question - How do I know when my painting is finished?
1. Excited to begin… we have an idea, supplies and the time to do it!
2. Frustrated. A bit of frustration starts to creep in because things may not be moving along as quickly as we had envisioned or maybe the project is a bit more tedious that we had planned - whatever the case may be the feeling is hard to avoid because of our expectations.
3. Self-doubting. A feeling of self-doubt generally washes over us leaving us experience a bit of defeat or perhaps questioning if this idea was really as good as once thought?
4. Hopeful. Because we are creative and have proven to ourselves over and over again that we are capable, our hopeful nature kicks in and we push through the “ugly” stages of the art and move towards something that is starting to “take shape”.
5. Here we go…Excitement starts to come back because we recognize that we “have got this” - the painting is beginning to really come together, the speed picks up, the doubt is gone, the endorphins and dopamine are starting to flood the brain, the painting is nearlyfinished (You can feel it!)….
This my fellow artists and friends, is where the answer to the above question truly lies. Addictive behaviour is ruling this roost and because life can be full of contrast, we have a tough decision to make. Because we are IN THE FLOW at this point, our brains, bodies and paintings are all one and it feels fantastic. Chemicals have us craving more of this rush! Who would ever want this feeling to end?
The real question is not, how do you know when a painting is finished but rather, do you have the strength to walk away when it is?
Compulsively creative always,