Looking at Your Art (and Life) in New Ways To Decide Your Next Steps

My fun day of outdoor creative “play” culminated in an artwork that I love in many ways. And now I’m at that point where I wonder how I’ll know when it’s finished. Here are two methods I use for assessing when my art is where I want it to be, and therefore “finished.”

1. Know what you’re aiming for

Art is so subjective, which is why different people like different kinds of art. Whether I’m creating abstract or representational art, I always start with some values or criteria that I’m aiming for with the artwork. Rather than defining a specific outcome, I think about what direction I want to be going in with the artwork, and what I want to be valuing in the way that I create the artwork and in the end product that I create. With this artwork, I valued the following directions…

  • I want to convey a sense of movement, vitality, and aliveness.
  • I want to enjoy experiencing different paint colours and consistencies, and creating different textures and patterns with the paints.
  • I wanted to use my whole body while creating, and to also use unconventional objects for making marks, not just paint brushes.
  • I wanted to convey feelings rather than stories or representations of specific recognisable objects.
  • I wanted the artwork to have an overall composition that is impactful from afar whilst inviting the viewer to come closer to enjoy the textural interest and wonder how the marks were made.

Having decided these creative directions and values, I have a way of assessing whether I’m on track during and at the end of the creative process. Without these pre-decided directions and values, it’s all too easy to slip into evaluating your art based on whether other people like it, or (in the case of representational art) whether it looks like an accurate representation of reality.

2. Place your art in different contexts and see it from different perspectives

Another way that I look at my art, to “feel” whether it’s finished is I use and app to “frame” it and place it in situ in rooms styled in different ways. This has a similar effect to stepping away from your artwork and viewing it from a distance. And placing my art in different contexts also often helps me to see my art in new ways…

Another thing I do is turn the artwork around and view it from different sides. It always amazes me how different an abstract artwork can feel if you just turn it 90 or 180 degrees!

Looking at it afresh from these angles, this piece feels almost, but not quite, finished. And I think I want to interrupt that beautiful indigo splash with some more colours and textures. So stay tuned for the next instalment…


Is it art or is it life?

  • Are you stuck in some area of your life and unsure of your next steps? Do you have a clear sense of what you value? Even if you aren’t sure specifically what you want the end result to look like or where you specifically want to get to, do you have a sense of the direction(s) you want to head in? Take some time to write that down, and to assess where you’re at in terms of these values in your current position.
  • What are some ways that you’ll know that you’re living your values and headed in the right direction?
  • How could you view the situation from a distance?
  • How might you have viewed this situation as your 5 or 15 year old self? And how might you look back upon it one day, in 10 or 20 years time? What perspectives might your younger or older self have to offer that you hadn’t noticed before?
  • What if you placed the situation/ problem in a different context … does it seem as problematic? Like, if that conversation you’re worrying about had happened in the context of a different (safer?) relationship, would you still feel so troubled about it? Would you feel able to access more options for different ways you could respond?
  • How would someone you love see this troublesome situation? How would someone who believes in you see your options for next steps? What do they see in you that would make them think those options are available to you?
  • If you knew for sure that it’s all going to be okay in the end, what next steps would you choose to take?