When should you call it done?

Today I will be discussing another issue that has been bugging me as of lately. When should you call your artwork done? Should you just call it finished and move on, as soon as possible? Or should you keep working until you are 99% satisfied? (For the sake of modesty, let’s assume that 100% is never met)

Historically, old masters used to work many years on a single painting. Even today with the rise of digital media, there are artists who keep coming back to their old work, to alter, retouch and evolve it (and also evolve WITH it). There is this phenomenal artist who kept working on the same artwork for ten years.

To me it feels natural and much wanted, coming back to your old work. Because we are constantly evolving as human beings, and as we change, so does our vision for our work. In fact, only recently with the rise of social media, we are “pushed” to create new stuff as fast as we can for the sake of posting constantly (which is another reason why I hate social media). I too felt this pressure at some point in the past, but I refuse to play the game any more, thank you very much. Art for me is self-expression, I hate to impose rules, boundaries and deadlines. And I love revisiting my old work for many reasons.

1. I consider myself a beginner in digital art

And before I receive attack for what I just said, let me explain. Your “level” in art isn’t about technical ability, it is about vision and execution. Many times I have a certain vision in my head, but my technique isn’t there yet, my hands cannot execute what my mind wants to bring to life. So, I want to be able to rework on my old stuff when my technique evolves.

2. We all progress with time, both as artists and as human beings

As we grow and change, so does our vision, and it is only natural to desire to work on our old art with our current mindset. After all, our work is our personal story that changes through time.

3. Revisiting gives you the chance to distance yourself…

And subsequently re-evaluate your art with a fresh pair of eyes. Because when you work on a single artwork non-stop, you become so burnt out that you can miss the point. Taking a break can be refreshing and it gives you confidence that you made the right choices art-wise (however, be warned: sometimes you just wanna scrap everything. But that’s ok too, it’s part of the journey!).

4. Trust the old masters

As I mentioned before, old masters worked on a single artwork for years. Classical composers worked on a single composition for years. Only recently, we, artists are “forced” to create stuff all the time. The internet has changed the world so fast, so we are in a constant race to “prove” ourselves to the world. But this self-promotion has nothing to do with one’s true value (proof is that our self-esteem is lower than ever). It’s ok to take a break and emerge re-born, re-evaluated and (why not?) reinvigorated.

And by any means, I am not against social media, I am truly not. Actually my main job is designing websites and helping people promote their work through them. So trust me, I know I couple of things about the internet. And I am quite afraid that the way social media are used today, they do more harm than good.

Anyways, to sum it up, I think revisiting our work is crucial for our development as artists and as personalities. So, this is me, reworking the same piece in the course of many months. This is just fanart, not even a “deep” piece (although what is “deep” and what not, is a matter of perception) just to illustrate (pun intended!) what I mean.

The process

Starting off with a black and white drawing of Gal Gadot as WonderWoman. Drawn digitally on iPad Pro, in procreate app, using my custom brushes. Of course I didn’t want to leave it as is…

WonderWoman digital painting – January 2021

The next step is close to how I had the finished piece on my mind, how I wanted the result to be – but not quite there yet. Still something was missing. Still everything was done on iPad Pro, in procreate app.

WonderWoman digital painting – February 2021

The following idea came to me while I was working on a tutorial (how to split RGB channels in procreate, you can see it here). I don’t exactly remember what I wanted to do (proof that our perception is constantly changing!) but I believe that the rigidity of the painting was bothering me. So I went this time for something less symmetric, more colorful and more dynamic. Still everything was done on iPad Pro, in procreate.

WonderWoman digital painting – March 2021

Aaaand after a couple of months and while the painting was still bugging me, I revisited it and went for something else. Tried to incorporate the WonderWoman logo, which I recreated in Affinity photo (I am seriously, I mean SERIOUSLY obsessed with this app lately!) The rest of the painting was still done in procreate. So, here we are now. The latest version. Still not completely satisfied, but who knows? Maybe one day… 😉

WonderWoman digital painting – June 2021

And a little disclaimer: Revisiting your work is great ONLY when you have the luxury to do so. There are cases where you simply can’t, for example when you do work for a client. In this case you just need to be as focused as possible, as efficient as possible, and … pray for the best! (And I think I just found a topic for a future post! 😆)

PS: For those of you who are still reading… here’s an old painting of mine, hope it will inspire some of you and boost your confidence. It is a procreate digital painting of WonderWoman, done in 2018. Although I hate to label things (especially art) as “good” or “bad”, you can definitely see some progress, right?! So, a small reminder, if you are currently struggling, you only need to keep it up. There’s nothing you can’t do, just take a pencil (normal or Apple!) and keep drawing.

WonderWoman digital painting – 2018

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Picture of Ioanna Ladopoulou

Ioanna Ladopoulou

Designer, illustrator

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