Module 2 — Only the Interesting Bits

Have you ever overworked a painting? I know I have! 

We tend to fix our attention all on the tip of the brush, and forget to step back, take in the whole, and ask “Do I really need to add anything more?” 

In this module, we consider the question “When is an artwork done?” and learn a trick for developing a habit to help prevent overworking. 

“It often takes two to do a good painting – one to paint it, and another to rap the painter smartly with a hammer before he or she can ruin it.”

—Richard Schmid

Module 2 Thinking Prompt—When Is It Finished?

What do you think? When is an artwork done? 

How do you decide for your own work? Is the answer the same for every artwork? 

Do you feel like you generally make a pretty good decision about when to stop or would you like to train yourself to stop sooner? 

Or do you run into the opposite problem: stopping because you’re stuck or bored instead of because the painting is finished? Do you always get stuck for the same reasons? If you often stop out of boredom, why do you think that happens?

Is everything you make with art materials an “artwork”? When you start something as an exercise or experiment, do you find yourself feeling like you are obliged to “finish it” and turn it into an artwork? 

Module 2 Activity Prompt—Deliberately “Unfinished” Sketches

In this activity, I suggest you work from life, if possible. You don’t have to work out outdoors; that just happens to be what I was doing when I made the video for this module. 

You can create a simple still life from everyday objects. Or draw a portion of the room you’re in, or a sleeping pet. Look out a window. Or open up a cabinet or drawer and draw the contents. (I’m using the word “draw” for simplicity, but as always, you can work in whatever media you prefer. )

For this activity, instead of worrying about composition and design, try giving yourself permission to 

  • start with whatever interests you the most
  • develop different parts of the drawing to different degrees

and stop working when

  • it’s no longer holding your attention
  • you’re getting mentally fatigued or losing focus
  • you find yourself rushing to “finish”
  • you just feel like you’ve taken it as far as you want to (today)

Module 2 Journaling Together Video

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