Ask the Art Professor: Is it Bad for an Artist to Start Another Artwork Before Finishing Another Artwork?

Scratchboard Project

“Is it bad to start another piece of art before finishing another one?”

Starting a new artwork while working on another is actually a terrific strategy that many artists use.   If you only work on one piece at a time, that creates unnecessary pressure on the creation of that specific work. You’re essentially putting all of your eggs in one basket, investing everything you’ve got into that one work.   For many people, this situation causes them to be too precious with their artwork.  This mindset makes it impossible to take creative risks and try new approaches.

There can be many advantages to working on many pieces all at once. I find that it’s important to be able to step away from your artwork and get some emotional distance from the work. Having multiple pieces in progress enables me to achieve that distance by working on a different piece every day. I’m able to make a piece, step away from it for several days and then come back to it with a fresh eye. When things aren’t going well with one piece, I can take a break from that piece and work on another. I’m less precious about each individual work because I know that if that one piece is a dud that I have many more.  If you’re working in a series, working on several pieces all at once can create cohesion in the body of work.

Composition Project

I myself always make sure that I have not only many artworks in progress at the same time, but multiple projects as well. When something isn’t going well with one project I divert my attention to another. This keeps me from getting overly frustrated with any given project, because I know there’s always something else waiting for me. Sometimes what I’m working on is based on the time constraints of my current schedule, an opportunity that I’m pursuing, while other times it just happens to be the project I’m the most excited about. I enjoy leaping back and forth between projects. Each project is different and therefore exercises different parts of my mind.

I have projects that I keep on the back burner that I know I will return to when the time is right.  Due to my change in studio space, I’ve had to put the 50 figure drawings from “Falling” aside for now.  While that project rests temporarily, I’m working on illustrations for my book “Learn, Create, and Teach: A Guide to Building a Creative Life.”


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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“How do you learn the basics?”
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“How do you know when to stop working?”


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One thought on “Ask the Art Professor: Is it Bad for an Artist to Start Another Artwork Before Finishing Another Artwork?

  1. I am so thrilled I found this website! The topics covered everything I was going through emotionally with my paintings. Thank you so very much. Dale

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