Since we built my studio, my husband and I have brainstormed ideas for signage outside the building. We love the look of old marquees, or neon signs from the 40’s and 50’s, but weren’t sure what we wanted the sign to say. I kind of like the idea of doing something completely unrelated to art (I’m quirky that way), but more and more I’m leaning toward the inscription “Work in Progress.” 

Not Finished Yet

When posting art online, artists will often add after the title, WIP, or Work in Progress. This indicates to viewers that the painting isn’t finished, and is a way of clarifying that any inadequacies in the work will be addressed in the completion process. A work in progress is often more open to criticism as other artists suggest ways of finishing it, but it’s also understood that the painting isn’t ready for a final judgment.

A work in progress painting will often reach a stage where it looks unsalvageable. Especially when I was painting in a more representational style, my mid-stage paintings looked awful. Lacking the darkest values and finishing “tidy up” detail strokes, the painting just didn’t seem to hold any magic or promise, and it was easy to lose interest and feel like giving up at this point.

Sticking it out beyond that ugly stage took faith. I couldn’t see whether or not I would succeed, but nothing would change if I gave up. That didn’t mean painting blindly. I’ve learned that sometimes I’m not ready to finish a painting; maybe I need to set it aside and wait for insight, or for my skills to grow enough for me to see the next step.

A Metaphor for Life

Watercolour hasn’t just given me an outlet for my creativity. There are parallels between what I have learned as an artist and how I live my life, and one that has impacted this overachiever the most is the concept of work in progress. As a person, I’m not finished yet either. Every day I’m learning, and I’ve learned to be gentler with my own work in progress state, as well as that of others, and to persevere in faith when change isn’t as evident as I’d like.