10 January 2013

Persistence...and "The War of Art"

After incubating a few weeks, I grew dissatisfied with a drawing I recently posted.  I decided to go back and continue working it up, to see where it would go.  I like bringing pieces to a solid finish.  Some artists feel it's better to move on to the next piece, to have more "starts".  Both approaches have merit.  I think pushing through to the finish cultivates persistence...a useful trait for an artist.

Learning how to finish a piece is important knowledge that can only be learned from experience.  It's not intuitive.  Many times the work stops before the piece is done.  Enter persistence.

For "Small Wonder", I ended up changing the composition (crop), background, value pattern and many of the edges.  I even moved the right eye up 1/8th inch, widened the nose, and re-shaped the mouth...can't leave drawing errors on the board.  It was almost a brand new drawing, so I re-titled it, too.

After an additional 25 hours, I'm satisfied I reached the point of diminishing returns on this drawing...ready for another "start".

The finished drawing after 55 hours...

Small Wonder, 9x6", graphite

The original 30-hour version...

Amanda at Two, 14x11", graphite


I just re-read "The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield.  If you need motivating, get this book.  It's a quick read and so relevant to the creative process, whatever your medium.

This is what Pressfield says about persistence...
"The professional understands delayed gratification.  He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare.  Have you heard the legend of Sylvester Stallone staying up three nights straight to churn out the screenplay for Rocky?  I don't know, it may even be true.  But it's the most pernicious species of myth to set before the awakening writer, because it seduces him into believing he can pull off the big score without pain and without persistence"

"The professional steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash.  He conserves his energy.  He prepares his mind for the long haul.  He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep those huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled with pull in to Nome."


  1. I think both pieces are excellent..personally whilst my work isn't at your high standard, once I've done a drawing and called it finished thats it !!! even when I look back on most of my drawings I see all the glaring mistakes I've made and try not to make the same mistake...needless to ay it doesn't work :)
    new year resolution is to take more time on each drawing and eliminate a lot of my mistakes...time will tell....happy new year..

    1. I like your way, John. I'm the odd one out, going back into a piece after it's sat around for a while. I've heard lots of art friend say they are so over a piece once they decide it's done. I only do it if I think there's something to learn from it...I have a lot of that I need to do. Good luck on your resolution. This art thing is hard :o)

  2. The drawing is excellent, Candace.Only you could have found mistakes in the previous version, though.I usually spoil my artwork if I decide to go back, so I leave it once I have put down the pencil!Great work, wish you a great year.

    1. You're right, Arti, it's risky to go back in to a piece, overwork it and kill the freshness. I usually go back in if it's really not working for me, so I guess I have nothing to loose anyway :o) Let you in on a secret...I'm still working on this drawing! I spent so much time on it that I figure I might as well go all the way...do the absolute best I can at this point in time. I'm planning to enter it in a few competitions.

      Have you found anything better than bristol board for your graphite drawings. Have a very creative 2013. Best, Candace.

  3. hey candace. Lovely drawing. I do prefer the top one. I always wanna go back if there is obvious drawing errors. After that i guess its all depends on what your initial goal is with the work. What you want to emphasise. Happy new year too!

  4. Your persistence paid off in a big way. I like the final drawing much better. It has so much more depth. Great job.