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Avoid Overworking Your Drawing or Painting

When Is It “Done”?

Many of us have struggled with that question. We throw ourselves into the creation process, the inspired image fresh on our minds, only to end up overworking a drawing (or painting) until it looks like mud! How does one decide when to stop drawing? When is a pencil drawing truly complete?

Speaking as one who has over-worked several drawings, I have come up with a number of tricks that help me reach for this fixative spray at just the right point.

The first thing I do is to stop drawing when I feel the piece is 90% complete … or when I know I still have more to do but it is almost done. I then walk away from the drawing for several days so that I can see it with fresh eyes later.

When I come back the the drawing table, I take the artwork and tape it to a door or wall and view it from a distance. I leave it there for another day or two and let my new impressions & inspirations sink in. Most of the time, I know at this point exactly what I want to do to finish the piece.

If I am still questioning myself, I hold the drawing up to a mirror and view it in “reverse.” This offers a completely new perspective, and I nearly always clearly see anything that has been bothering me about the drawing. Occasionally I will take a digital picture of the artwork and view it on a computer screen. It’s amazing what a different view of the art will reveal

Pencil Artist David Horne says “When you start looking for things to do in a piece of work thats normally when its done.” I think this is a wonderful quote, and I know it will help me with future pencil drawings. And pencil artist Clive Meredith shares “I tend to know that a drawing is finished when the image on paper matches the one in my mind.” … another wonderful thought!

Pencil drawing is a very soothing artform, requiring many hours of dedication in peace & quiet. It can be so easy to become lost in creating detail, that we become trapped in that detail, losing site of the desired result. I hope the above tips will help you to create your perfect drawing in pencil!