Aw Forget It — Giving Up On a Piece.

  • Hey everyone,
    I read some really interesting advice once. I think it was in “The Illusion of Life.”
    Essentially the advice was: if you keep trying and trying on the same piece, and you cant seem to figure it out, maybe its not a problem with you, maybe its the idea that is bad.

     Anyway, I don’t often give up on a piece, especially if I spent more than a few hours on it. But I did tonight. 

    I wasn’t happy with my August submission, so I’ve been going back over it again and again and I couldn’t seem to fix it. So I finally gave up and deleted the file.

    I guess my question to you is this:
    What’s your theory on quitting a piece? When do you know it’s not going to work out vs when its worth it to keep pushing?

  • Does the formatting look super janky here? One random line shows up in black. What’s up with that?

  • @Ross-Cuellar-0 Not sure about that black line through it.

    The most I've spent on a painting was around 100 hours, over many months. I also did some colour pencil drawings that were more than 30 hours.

    I get frustrated, but I don't give up trying.

    With digital, we have the tools to save an element of a piece that we like, duplicate it, etc. And then go back to basics, or experiment with another idea.

    Anyway, the sketch is the most important part of the process. Get that to where you want it first.

    I do like going back to basics.

  • SVS OG

    @Ross-Cuellar-0 i usually give up on a piece after spending days and it still looks bad no matter what I do. Also, it’s really not a big deal if you choose to give up on a piece. Artists give up on countless of artworks. The pieces we get to see are only a small fraction of their work. Embrace making bad work. You need to Get all the bad paintings out before you arrive to the good ones.

  • Don't feel bad for giving up on pieces, I give up on illustrations all the time 😂 I feel it's part of the process of learning and experimenting. Usually if I don't feel anything special from the beginning of a piece, if I never get into a good flow and feel excited about a piece, that usually means I'm going to struggle a lot with it. Those pieces never turn out as good, even if I spend 80 hours on them.

    There's always a hard part during every illustration, at least to me, where I just have to push through it, but if I still believe in the core idea it usually turns out the way I want it. I've learnt spending a lot more time in the sketch phase and doing thumbnails help with this! And sometimes I leave a piece for a long time, and if I still like the idea after a couple of weeks/months I can look at it with fresh eyes and make changes to it.

  • I do not know if this is relevant for this thread. I thought I'd share it here: I was listening to an interview with Lynda Berry the other day. She talked about a profound moment she had as an art student. Once she told her teacher that she did not like the piece she just done. She did not know what to do. The teacher replied "it is none of your business". The important thing is the piece is there.

    I gave up a piece all the time. I left many unfinished paintings on my harddisk, sketchbooks. But I rarely delete files, or throw away sketch books. You never know what the painting/idea will look to you half a year from now, or 5 years from now. I heard Shaun Tan talked about the experience of visiting his old sketchbooks. Sometimes he would say to himself "that is acutally not a bad idea. It is actually quite good - I just need to think about the idea in a different way."

    I have also repopose a composition for one unfinished painting, and using it for another paitning - sort of copying myself... weirdly.

  • Until I start to imagine what they’d say about it on the Three Point Perspective podcast. Many times I’d be struggling with a drawing only to remember one of them talking about drawing 50 thumbnail sketches. So that tip you included in your post resonated with me so well. Maybe the drawing itself is the problem? So I try a few different other layouts. Usually does the trick.

  • Being able to power through that period of 'this piece sucks' all the way to polished sparkly finish is a skill you can develop. But at the same time there's nothing wrong with moving on from a piece. There's a always a sharp point of diminishing returns.

    Once in a while I'll shelve a piece entirely. But more often than not if it's not working out I'll restart it (and kick myself for not doing enough thumbnails in the first place). While I'm working on something I'll always be thinking how it could be so much easier/better/shinier if I'd only done it different and I'll inevitably have a much different vision for what it should be by the time I'm almost done the first version.

  • Lately my personal attitude is: finish a piece no matter what. If I don't like it, I don't have to share it or put it in my portfolio. Sometimes finishing a tricky piece will be spread over several months, but I will still finish it. I typically reach a point in all of my pieces where I think it's not worth continuing, so if I gave up each time, I wouldn't have anything done in my already sparse output. I may feel differently in the future, but I think finishing pieces it's what's best for me in this moment in time. My current exception is if it's part of a series and a piece is not working in the context of that series, then I will scrap it.

    I don't judge others for scraping pieces though, I think it just all depends on the artist and many different factors.

  • Pro

    @Ross-Cuellar-0 Personally I only give up on a piece at the thumbnailing stage. If after 50 thumbnails I cannot figure it out or I'm not really excited about the piece, then I'm done because I know it won't work out. If I'm not excited about the thumb, I'm not doing it. Once the thumbnail stage is completed I always have at least one composition I'm really excited about, so from this point on I always see the piece through.

  • @NessIllustration I am curious, do you do about 50 thumbnails for every spread if you do a book? I started to get lazy when doing the entire book. I often do a bit more thumbnails for the cover, but the spread itself, sometimes I settle too soon. Often a layout for one spread is connected to what it is going on in the previous, and the next spread. Do you have design tips when thumbnailing the entire book? I have not came across this topic so much (not here, not elsewhere on internet either).

    I am a bit off topic. But I am really curious about this...

  • Pro

    @xin-li Oh I am really bad at making as many thumbnails as I should ^^'' It's really rare I do more than 20, and when doing a book it's even rarer that I do more than 6 per page. I know, that's bad!! I usually think about my spreads a lot in my idle time before I start, and get very strong mental images of what I want. But the time I thumbnail, I know what I want.. I force myself to do at least 6 very different ones in case I come up with something better, but 95% of the time the best one is my 1st or 2nd one. If I'm not really feeling it after 6 and my compositions are not working, then I'll do more. Usually I'll take a break away from it, do some research and think about it some more, then go back more prepared to do more thumbs. If it's still not working, I force myself to do up to 50 because I know technically I should always go up to 50, so I start feeling like a bad lazy artist and tell myself "You don't KNOW if it's not working yet, because really you're supposed to do at least 50 to begin with". But by the time I reach 50 if I'm still not feeling it, I know it ain't happening haha...

    As for thumbnailing an entire book, I make myself a page full of mini double page spread size rectangle (a lot like a storyboard sheet) and do 6 of each page. I start with the pages I have a very strong mental image for that are key pillars of the book, and once I block those in it gives me ideas for the rest of the pages. In a way it's like I have key pages and pages that complement the key pages. When I'm thumbnailing I do first the layouts I have in my mind, then ones that would complement the surrounding pages, and then at least a few that are wackier, more original ideas, just to see what happens and if I come up with something genius by accident. Once I have my thumbnails, then I look at them next to my already existing "blocked in" pages and pick the one that fits best. That's just how I do it, but it's kind of a jagged process with a lot of back and forth, because it's a complicated thing to do to map out a whole book. There are so many factors to keep in mind and personally I can't think of everything at once, so I try to do one thing at once and go back and forth a lot until everything work together. It's complicated stuff for sure haha.. I'd love to hear how pros do it cause there has to be a better way.

  • @NessIllustration hehe. I recognise your process very much. I am less organised than you. One big differnce in my process is that I tends to do a very bad drawings from page 1 to the last page - they are only basic shapes and stick figures. I also pick out the spreads I think is not working, and do more thumbnails for them.

    I am going to start trying your minimum 6 thumbnails approach. I feel like sometimes I settle too fast.

    I do feel guilty of not doing more thumbnails too. But I have only been given about 2 weeks for each book to deliver an entire b&W rough, so far.

    I have been thinking about improving my process for thumbnailing stage for book projects. But I found very little reference on that subject. Thank you for sharing this. I think maybe this is a subject we could request svs instructors to talk about in the future.

  • Pro

    @xin-li 2 weeks is so little time honestly. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to hit your deadline! 6 thumbnails do go rather fast though, I think it's worth it 🙂 If you do 1 that's your mental image,another that's a tweak on your mental image, another 2 that would just complement the surrounding pages well, and then an extra 2 to let loose and try something wacky. Boom, done! 6 thumbs usually takes me about 15 minutes 🙂 But that's precisely why I personally feel so horrible and lazy about not doing more LOL ^^''''

  • I don't think I give up on work that I have actually put my pencil or whatever down and started. Sometimes mistakes along the way help me solve issues or create creative alternatives I would not have thought, which is sort of cool. I do have a lot of ideas not done which can make me feel blue. Maybe you just need a longer break and try something different and then return later either when you have some more skills picked up. And if a work really is still on the heart strings I would go back and work on it.

  • @Ross-Cuellar-0 haha I thought you did that on purpose for emphasis -it might have to do with code, not sure how you did it. A little over my head skill level.

  • Hey thanks you guys I ended up giving the piece one more try. I simplified it and I’m working on clarifying my style. I, pretty happy with how it turned out. You can see the original in the very bottom of he August prompt post. 274564D5-DB5B-4B0C-ABA6-0013EBBFB1EB.jpeg

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