Monday 7 December 2009

In Praise of Unfinished Projects

"Why can't you finish one thing before you start another?" was right up there with "Why can't you just pick one thing and do it right?" when I was growing up. I ignored both pieces of advice. Adults, well-meaning friends, teachers, all insisted that this was the only way to actually get anything accomplished. The result of which I'm sure only made me more determined to find my own way.

I have amazing focus when I want. When I find something that interests me I throw myself in the deep end, consumed for weeks, months or even years until I am completely saturated. I just have more than one obsession on the go at any given time – sort of like the books I read… Learning rather than completion matters more to me.

"Once you have understood that it's the work that counts, and not the reward, you'll be happy" a teacher wrote in my journal when I was ten. Considering that I disagreed with exams on principle, I can only imagine how I embraced this sacrilegious concept!

I LOVE Unfinished Projects! There, I've said it. I mean, how else can you get that sense of finishing a whole bunch of stuff in one go? Fifteen years ago I ran a "Sock of the Month Club" and knitted up one sock for every month of the year ahead as class samples. Every year or so I would complete the "other" sock and have a whole new pair! This winter I may just finish the very last one, a heavy mustard sock that will mark the end of an era. I can't remotely relate to the fact that I should have finished this 15 years ago. I'm just ecstatic at how great they are going to look with my new purple sweater… if I get them finished, that is…. And as for the red pair I started two years ago, wait till I wear them with the stunning red Roots boots my friend found for me at the thrift store last winter!

Whenever I have an art show coming up, I simply turn to my crate of Unfinished Projects and within a week I can have several new "finished" pieces without any of the "burning the candle at both ends" syndrome.

My recent West Coast Reflections series grew from a host of unfinished watercolours.

Then there are all those collages that would never have come into being if it were not for the unfinished wannabe's loitering around the studio.

One of my most important pieces of art has grown from an "unfinished project" of several years back, and has launched a whole new series earmarked for a groundbreaking solo show next summer.

So come on, join the revolution, DON'T finish that project – you'll be amazed at what happens if you dare!

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