Coming on the heels of a work of fibre art that came together quickly and quite successfully,  my most recent piece was, well, a challenge. With a deadline looming, my fingers were crossed that it would come together okay and on time. But something wasn't working yet and I couldn't put my finger on it. 

Why is it that some pieces of art can be created so easily and others are so difficult? .

And with the amount of time I had spent on this piece, I didn't just want to give up. But I wasn't finding the answers either. 

Here are some insights and lessons learned that can help us when our art isn't turning out the way we anticipated, and maybe even prevent a challenge or two. Some of these we seem to keep learning again, and again, and again....

  • There are times when we just have to keep working until our art does reach a passable grade. Pushing. Slogging. Buckling down. It may also mean just sitting with the piece until a creative solution appears. 
  • Maybe we just didn't make one of our better works. We may have been distracted, in a hurry, or just not that interested in what we were working on. Or possibly we weren't ready for this particular piece, had moved out of our comfort zone too quickly, taken on too bit of a challenge. Many creatives have a long list of things they have tried that didn't work out. It can take lots of experimentation before we attain the success we desire. 
  • It's possible to lose a bit of self-confidence if we are comparing our work to others, especially to someone whose work we admire or who has much more experience. The only comparisons we should be making are about our own skills and progress compared to work that we know are capable of and to older works so we can gauge our improvement over time.
  • Some visual artists make thumbnail sketches first and try out ideas before implementing this into a final product. Others simply hope it will just turn out the first time. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.  I remember a teaching artist once saying that all pieces go through an ugly stage. I don't know if this is true or not, but it's something I tell myself when I am struggling.
  • Writers expect to have to edit, often several times before a piece is finished, so why is it that visual artists expect good results from the first get-go and are then frustrated when something needs to be fixed or re-worked?
  • Every so often we need to be reminded to enjoy the creative process and not focus on the end result. When we focus on results, we are not living in the moment. Sure we want the art to turn out well, but i's the process of getting there step by step by step, no matter how tedious, that moves us to our goal. Like the saying says, it's the journey that's important, not the destination.
  • It's also possible to overwork a piece, or maybe finish it before it's complete. I wrote some thoughts a while back on how to tell if a piece is done. Click here to see this post.
  • It's important to create a piece with love and positive emotions, and not when you're down or frustrated. You've heard that food tastes better when it's made with love. It's the same with art. If you're in a negative state of mind, the piece will end up reflecting that state. And if you continue working when you're feeling frustrated, that frustration may infuse itself into the piece and stall you even further. 
  • I suggested earlier that sometimes we just need to listen for the next step. Hear what it tells us. Listen to our feelings. Let it unfold in its own time. Trust our intuition and inner guidance. Observe any images that come. Don't think. Put the left brain aside, and the solution may appear. 
  • And lastly, turning to a friend for feedback can help you find the answers. And this is what I needed to do. She immediately saw the problem  areas - and they were the same areas that were bothering me. And she came up with a solution I had not thought of. 
In hindsight, I was following some of these suggestions, such as continuing to push forward, and this did help me move in the right direction, well, sort of.  But I also realized I was started to overwork the piece in the wrong areas, was beginning to rush steps because of the deadline, wasn't listening to my intuition, and most likely infused frustration into it. By getting some feedback I was able to fix the piece in time and replace the frustration with hope. 

The previous piece that did come together so easily was truly a piece were I just enjoyed the process, and one that I often put aside for a day or two so I could listen to my intuition tell me if the next steps were the right ones, or not. 

I hope these insights help you next time you have one of those troublesome creative pieces. 


"Music is full of longing and movement.  Painting should be the same." I read this quote in Hundred and Thousands: The Journals of...