Done, but not quite

I was very excited this Thanksgiving when I finished ALL the final art for the book – GOOD MORNING TO ME - that I've been working on this past year. It features my beloved parrot, Beatrix, and kitty. I started it last Thanksgiving. I spent a quiet morning in my studio packing up each painting, wrapping them in paper and sealing them up safe and tight in layers of cardboard to be shipped off to my lovely editor and art director, all the while dreaming of the feast I would make for my husband later that day, and thinking how we would kick back and savor the feeling of finishing another story. So then why the weird feeling when I tried to kick back that night? And why the next morning the desire to open up the package?

Ah done… but not quite.

I poured everything into this story. I scrutinized every sketch and revised countless times over the past months. I did color study after color study and painted up a storm to finish this book. The first few hours I chalked it up to that age old feeling that it's really hard to let go of a project after a year of work. But by mid afternoon, I knew it wasn't just that feeling--there was more to do. I ripped open the package and spread the paintings out one last time. Then I had to break it to my husband that I needed to revise and keep painting through the weekend. He's always awesome about this kind of thing and knew the regret of not pursuing this idea outweighed the lost weekend.

Students of writing and illustration always ask me, "when do you know when something is finished?" I think with creative pursuits you can never really know. One always looks at a work and thinks I wish I had done that or this differently. And sometimes in the pursuit of perfection we go sailing past the point of DONE and venture into over-baked, over-thought and over-worked. It's heartbreaking at times to know you've gotten to that point. But I want to strive to the point where there are no regrets. That you don't get to the end and wished you had tried one more thing. And so I'm painting away on these last few spreads and my heart is already telling me they're an improvement.

I was asked today to teach at a writers conference later this spring. Unfortunately it conflicts with my schedule and I can't, but it inspired me to want to share one little kernel of something I've learned working on these stories. Students often share paintings and dummies of picture books with me and ask if I think they're finished. No one can tell us this except our own hearts. Characters and stories grow up very slowly for me. Layer upon layer of understanding comes to me as I sketch and re-sketch and paint and repaint. I have friends who work much faster and I envy them that. But then again, I love the fact that I have so many happy hours with my characters as I create them. They are good company!

Click to share thisClick to share this