When creating art I think sometimes the temptation is to try to finish every single piece that you work on – and those that you don’t finish (because they are not working for whatever reason) can end up in the bin.
The last couple of years (more than likely longer) I don’t think I have thrown one piece of work out. Whatever has not been sold or gifted is kept either in piles (must get one of these someday), portfolios or on my walls. As my studio goes into the roof and the ceiling slants, I have very little wall space to hang work so my solution is to hang pieces on coat hangers so I can switch the front one from time to time and see different work.
This means I have a lot of work building up – some of it I am pleased with, some of it was just never going to work, some just remained unfinished because I moved onto something else. But what I have learned is that all of this work is really useful to my current practice. Even the pieces that are badly drawn and wrong are vital for me to have for reference when I am drawing and painting now. A particular expression can inspire new work; the looser more expressive drawings remind me not to tighten up too much when I am working; the self portraits and portraits give me a wealth of expressions and characters to draw from when I am painting and I may be reminded of a particular line or colour that just worked (as well as those that just didn’t).
So all of these unfinished, unloved, homeless pieces of drawings and paintings actually serve a valuable purpose. They also remind me that when a particular piece is not working it is okay! There is no pressure! It can serve it’s purpose another day. I put it up on the wall and try again. Sometimes it is worth battling through to make something work – sometimes it is best just to leave it and start again. Simple! (There is no magic formula for deciding what to persevere with and what to leave – I think it just comes with practice.)
I would love to know if this is something you do or could find useful. Also, I know that I have a studio space to house all the work I have ever done but if you don’t have a dedicated work space perhaps you could keep previous work in a folder or photograph it and keep the images? You might just find yourself going back to these pieces when making new work.
PS Today marks 12 weeks till the start of my upcoming e-course and registration opens Monday 3rd Feb. Remember that you can sign up to the mailing list on the bottom of the E-course page here for more information and I am adding to the page a little every day.