Monday, June 1, 2009

When is it "done"?

Last week it rained. I placed a bucket under the leak in my studio ceiling and listened to the drips as I contemplated the 35 rectangles spread on the table. Some of them seemed to be finished while others were clearly not that far from the beginning stages.

Actually I had believed a few of them were finished when I was working on them in Sydney. But as I looked at them in the dreary (that day!) Vermont light I wondered. And feared that perhaps I had taken some of them too far, adding too many layers of paint! The more recent pieces displayed a spontaneity or accessibility that was lost on some of the others that I had judged as "done." It is so much easier to tell when baking a cake!

I stuck 35 pushpins on the wall and began to hang the pieces up for evaluation. I was right! Many of the earlier pieces seemed dull and overworked. I'd have to figure out how to bring them back, what sort of sanding and re-painting they might need.

And I decided to let some of the "maybe" pieces rest for a while instead of rushing ahead. I needed to sneak up on them after several days and see them with beginner's eyes. Then it might be so clear.

This question of when a piece is finished is almost always an issue for me. I have to curb my tendency to feel that more is better when it comes to making art. Almost always, it will tell me when it's "done" if I only take the time to listen.

Barbara Bartlett

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