Artists: What Should You Do with Unfinished Work?

It all started with a bad day

It was a tough day in the art studio today. I woke up this morning with very little energy; however, I was determined to make time for art regardless of my lethargic state. Several cups of coffee and a long walk around my neighborhood later, I was ready to begin. I set out to start a cat portrait I have wanted to work on for a while from one of my art technique books. I set my timer for 25 minutes and I started drawing from an art demonstration book. Suffice it to say, the drawing did not go well, at all, despite several attempts to get the proportions of the cat’s body correct. Each attempt just brought on more feelings of frustration. After the third attempt, I finally gave up and put my supplies away and went to do something else, probably laundry or reading a book. After working on the cat portrait, I realized that I am really out of practice when it comes to doing animal portraits, as I have been focusing a lot more on floral subjects, which is made up of simpler shapes and less precise in their proportions than animals and people. And I realized that I needed to practice drawing much more often like I did last summer when I completed a drawing challenge, 100 Faces in 100 days, which featured celebrity portraits.

What I observed from the day

I tried not to beat myself up about it, or obsess about what my failure to meet my expectations might mean, but I think that this drawing might end up in the growing pile of unfinished artworks. This observation brings me to today’s topic, which is, what to do with your unfinished artwork. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have several unfinished or unsatisfactory art projects residing in my art studios, such as pastels, drawings, watercolors and some oil paintings that did not turn out as I had envisioned. This makes me wonder, what should I do with this collection of art misfits? Earlier last week, I serendipitously found the article, “50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art,” by Carrie, on https://www.artiststrong.com/50-ways-to-use-your-unfinnished-art/.

What I have done in the past with unsatisfactory art

In the past, I have usually tried to resolve issues with unfinished artwork, sometimes starting over from scratch; i.e. creating a brand new drawing on a new substrate and re-surfacing the canvas by sanding it with heavy grit sandpaper so it can be re-gessoed. Other days, when I am more desperate or frustrated, I throw it in the trash, never to be seen again. Unless of course, my husband gets to it before I take out the trash. In which case, he fishes it out and says, ‘Why did you throw this away?” Or, some variation upon that theme usually ensues when he finds my rejected art. Ok, so now on to some information I would like to share with you about the article I read, “50 ways to Use Your Unfinished Art.” Here are a few highlights from the article.

  • Take a photo of the artwork and “”manipulate the photos” to re-design it. Adobe PhotoShop is a good photo editing program to try for this option, with editing tools such as cropping, filters, light and dark balance, and photo filters. The possibilities here are really endless!
  • “Abandoned art project, anyone?” (Source: 50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art”)
  • Cut the artwork into pieces to construct a college. For example, the artist and author, Ann Blockley, has an excellent book, which describes this technique called, Experimental Landscapes in Watercolor, and it’s available on Amazon.com.
  • Cut the artwork and create a background for another piece of art.
  • Select a completely different art medium to finish the art. For instance, make it a mixed media piece.Amazon.com or your local library will probably have lots of books on mixed media art from which you can gain inspiration and techniques.
  • Re-use it in a reconditioned item of furniture.
  • Create a tray from your art using epoxy.
  • Throw the painting away-if it makes you feel better.
  • Take a break from it for two weeks or a month, to get some objectivity about your work. After that, re-assess your incomplete work, but only complete the pieces that you feel led to work on, and let go of the ones you aren’t sure how to resolve.
  • Post a photo of your artwork in a community where artists give each other feedback, such as http://www.emptyeasel.com, and ask for help from others.

    Self-Portrait, unfinsihed, flat
    Self-Portrait, pastel on paper, 18 x 24 inches, 2014, Jodie Schmidt.

     

    German Shepherd, pastel, flat, final
    German Shepherd, pastel on paper, 18 x 24 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.

    Lincoln, unfinished, flat
    Abraham Lincoln, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.

    Apple Still Life with blue bottle, flat
    Apple Still Life, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2017, Jodie Schmidt.

    Cows grazing, unfinsihed, flat
    Out to Pasture, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2014, Jodie Schmidt.

 

Below are some links to websites that can help you get started with some of the techniques listed in this article, such as collage. Another website to visit for ideas on how to re-invent your art might include, youtube or Pinterest. YouTube is a great way to see techniques demonstrated, it’s almost as good as being in a class. Just be sure to look for art tutorials with narration so you can learn what techniques and materials the artists are using to make their work. It’s harder to figure that out with the speeded up variety called, time lapse. Thanks for stopping by! I hope this article is helpful to someone out there who is struggling to complete their art. I am definitely going to try out some of these techniques myself to try and complete some of my unfinished art, which is posted in this week’s blog! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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What Should Artists Do with Unsold Art?

Several few weeks ago, I read a blog post by Jason Horejs entitled, “What Should an Artist do with a Lifetime of Unsold Artwork?” The article focused on a question posed by a reader on Jason Horejs’s site, who had reached the age of ninety, and had produced a vast collection of artwork during their career as an artist and had never mastered the art of marketing, but nonetheless had showed their artwork in various shows and competitions throughout their lifetime. Despite this, the artist was left wondering what to do with the artwork that hadn’t sold, and felt that their shyness had played a part in keeping them from selling more artwork. Jason Horejs opened up the question for discussion on his blog post, by asking readers to respond to this reader’s question about how to dispose of excess, unsold artwork, whether the artist was living or not. The answers to this question varied from hosting a super art sale, donating the work to a charitable cause, or selling the artwork to auction houses and art galleries thereafter.

Although I hope to have many more years to live, I am considering this question myself, “What should I do with my unsold artwork?” This question has been taking an added significance since I am rapidly running out of space in my apartment to store my paintings and drawings, despite occasional sales, art commissions and donations over the years. I am new to the world of art entrepreneurship, and still have a long way to go in refining my marketing and sales techniques; however, I have been painting and drawing for several years. In fact, I have been drawing and painting since I was nine years old, when I took my first painting class, and I have been intentionally focused on selling and marketing my artwork for about a year. Over time my stash of unsold artwork has continued to accumulate.

In addition, after attempting to organize my artwork this past week, by wrapping them in wax paper and bubble wrap, I am getting an idea of how much work it will be to find places to put my artwork. Now that I have a clearer picture of how long this organization process will take, I’m also realizing that I do not want this task to consume all of my time. I also don’t want to start renting a storage space to store the art yet, although it may come to that at some point. Another problem is that I am less inclined to give my artwork away to friends/family because I am making the switch from creating art as a hobby to a small business, and I feel it’s unfair to offer my artwork for free to some and charge for it from others.

In the past, I have given my artwork to others as gifts, and some of it has been trashed as a last result when I could not think of a way to salvage the painting. Other times, I have recycled canvases by sanding them and re-applying gesso to start a new painting. Sometimes I can get a really great painting out of the recycled canvases. Occasionally, my artwork has been sold to collectors and fans of my artwork. I’m grateful for each and every sale. On the other hand, I’d like to consider what some of my options might be for dispensing with my artwork. Some ideas that come to mind are: 1.) listing places in my neighborhood and surrounding areas, where my artwork can be exhibited such as art galleries, retail stores, and coffee shops, signing up for more art contests,, decorating my home and switching out the artwork periodically, and storing my best work and researching additional strategies to sell them online or in books about art business.

Here’s what some other people had to say about the subject of disposing of excess, unsold artwork: Gallery owner of Xandu Art Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona: Jason Horejs states that: “It’s never too late” to learn how to market your artwork, on his blog www.reddotblog.com,  Artist: Lori McNee suggests: Evaluate the unsold painting to see if you can make it better, on her website www.finearttips.com, and Teaching Artist: Christine Martell offers: Use old artwork to make new work by collaging drawings and paintings or making sculpture out of it, on her website http://christinemartell.com/about-christine-martell/. What about you reader? Do you have any additional thoughts on this subject? I would love to hear your suggestions, as I work through this long-term project of organizing my art studio and my unsold artwork.

Sketchbook cover, edited.jpg.
I’m taking a break from my biographical sketch of Sting this week and working on some prompts from this sketchbook. I hope to get back to the portrait next week.

Sketchbook, sunflowers,edited 2
Pictured is a colored pencil sketch of a field of sunflowers.

Sketchbook, Emperor Dragonfly, edited 2
Here is another page from my sketchbook of an Emperor Dragonfly made with colored pencil.

Sketchbook, Redwood, edited
A colored pencil sketch of a redwood tree.