What are the benefits of finishing an artwork?

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What are the benefits of finishing an artwork?

With all the challenges connected to finishing, why would one ever want to finish an artwork? The answer is rather straight-forward: because finishing can open your mind to the consequences of your creation. It marks the beginning of the next phase of your artwork’s life cycle: the one where it can exist independently of you. This enables dialogs beyond your control, which ultimately might feed back to you, and thus into your artistic practice: for an artist, finishing an artwork generates knowledge.

Consider the benefits of finishing:

  • Finishing is a natural part of progressing: While finishing isn’t the logical consequence of having started, it’s still a natural (although optional) part of progressing – it lets you open your ideas to (internal and external) judgement. If you’re afraid of feedback, consider yourself within the larger process of progressing as an artist. Each step on this path is a step forward – independently of whether you think of it as success or failure.

    While a finished artwork represents the extreme limitations of your physical abilities and your (rational and subconscious) choices, it still isn’t a closed or finite; just like beginnings, it represents hope: the hope to one day become a better artist, the hope for others to like, enjoy, understand and connect to it; the hope of contributing to the medium we work in; the hope of selling the piece.
  • Finishing enables the work to exist without you: Although we’re used to experiencing unfinished works (when visiting a studio or following someone’s progress on social media), it’s the finished pieces that are usually meant to go public. By finishing a piece, it can enter the next part of its life cycle – to be experienced, exhibited, and potentially bought. It can become the focus of criticism and adoration, of countless dialogs about its content and form. Most of all, it can exist autonomously: it doesn’t require it’s author anymore.

  • Finishing generates knowledge: A finished work can be a platform – for others to experience and to engage in a dialog with. It enables discussions about its genesis, its physicality, its content and form; your intentions and missteps, and the potential randomness that led to it. It manifests your quality ideals. All of these can help you to raise your awareness about yourself and your work practice, and the eternal gap between idea and manifestation; a finished work increases your knowledge about your place in the world.

  • Finishing can empower you: Finishing lets you judge not only your experiments, but your judgement as a whole. This makes it a unique tool for personal growth; not just to experience your inabilities, but to increase the courage required to present your efforts to the world. It can help to establish your voice.

  • Finishing allows your work to be bought: Buying art doesn’t necessarily require physical goods; one can buy intellectual properties or reproduction rights just as well. However, the most common financial transaction on the art market still is the collecting of physical artworks – for which finished works are usually wanted. Physical media like drawing, painting, sculpting or photography intrinsically allow for the creation of finished physical works, and thus are the most common objects for art sales. Physical works are so normative that even process-based artists (using media like performance or dance) often produce physical goods in order to be have sellable products (photos or  videos of their performances, or physical parts of the performance, etc).

  • Understand finishing as part of continuing: Analyzing your finished work can help you understand how to to continue. Apart from increasing awareness of your artistic choices and style, this enables you to formulate multiple relevant answers to the same formal or semantic question. This can be empowering, since it creates comparison criteria within your work, and allows for alternatives to whatever sparked the initial work.

Check out the chapters about the anatomy of finishing, and the challenges of finishing.

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