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 which provides equal access to high quality art education for people of all ages and means. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter hit its $30k goal on July 19, 2016.  Get info on our early 2017 site launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram  and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.

Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.

Related articles
“How can I tell if I’m skilled enough?”
“How do you find your own individual style?”
“How do artists manage to get their soul out into images?”
“How do you develop an idea from a sketch to a finished work?”
“How do you make an art piece more rich with details that will catch the eye?”
“How do you learn the basics?”
“How do you work in a series?”
“When and how should you use photo references to draw?”
“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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