It’s a strange feeling when I don’t finish something after getting a lot of finishing done. First of all it’s tough to get anything done as an artist. You’ve got to get over the initial hump of, “Why do any work if you’re not getting paid for it?” That’s what stops most people who want to be artists. Why make a piece of art that takes up your time and money that no one cares about when you finish it? I can’t even tell you how to answer that question. At best I can tell you it’s an obstacle of self doubt that you have to put aside and ignore. The question never goes away but can be put away in a drawer. At least for a little while.

Four about five months I was getting a lot of big ink drawings done. I finished 28 of those 22×30 inch big ink drawings. Since each one takes about three days to finish that is a lot of work. I was into it though. I had first made about a dozen big ink drawings back in 2014-2015 but then I stopped. Who knows why except that these things just run their course. I thought I would make more but I never did until five months ago. Over three years later. What got me started again? I’m not even sure of that except that I wanted to. I was feeling constrained by the 11×17 inch paper I usually work on.

I worked on the drawings on the weekend. I’d work up a drawing during the week, transfer it to a big piece of paper, and then draw with ink all of Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes I’d have to finish a bit of it on Monday. Sundays worked well with the drawing because I could put a football game on in the background as I worked. Otherwise I might have the TV on with a movie or TV show that didn’t demand too much attention. It’s not like I could watch something closely as I was working.

I finished the last one two weekends ago. It came out nice. I’ve generally been happy with all the big ink drawings I’ve done so far. You can’t make a drawing that big that takes that much time without planning and that planning usually weeds out the bad stuff that I wouldn’t be happy with. So that’s what’s good about this big ink drawings. By the time I get to the finished stage I’m happy with it.

Working on smaller drawings with less planning can lead to frustration. It’s just part of the process. Sometimes it is the process. At the beginning of making a piece of art I need to be jamming out ideas and not thinking about quality. That’s the stuff I do in my ink book/sketchbook. I have to get stuff down on paper and quality doesn’t matter.

After I have a lot of drawings I pick some out and try to make new drawings from them. That’s where the quality control comes in. It’s not easy to make a drawing out of a small idea. Often it doesn’t work out. I have a bunch of drawings that I bring to this stage and then abandon. I think I can do something with it but then I can’t. Frustrating but that’s the way things work. I have to put aside the frustration and keep going.

So the big ink drawings were all vetted through this process. Some were new drawings that I came up with and some were old drawings that I brought back to life. Like I said I have plenty of orphaned drawings so I looked through them to find something I liked. But that was the key. I already liked the guts of the drawing. The basic premise and style so there was almost no chance I’d hate it when I made a big ink drawing from it. That’s key when working big. Keep yourself as happy with it as possible.

So as I was working on the last one I was feeling some burnout. The sense of satisfaction of getting one done wasn’t there. It was felling a little to by the book. I often work on things in bursts. If five months can really be considered a burst that is. I’ll work on a bunch of “Dreams of Things” covers in a row, a bunch of small paintings, photographs, or some comics. Inevitably whatever grove I get into with a particular thing ends. I don’t know why it ends but it does. I get a “That’s enough of that” feeling and can’t go on. That’s what I hit with these big ink drawings.

It’s the feeling that come after the burnout that’s tough. It’s that sense of “What do I do now?” When I was on a roll with those big ink drawings I didn’t have to ask myself that question. I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it. It all made sense. I know that feeling doesn’t last but I ride it out as long as I can. That’s how I get things done. But how do I get things done after a roll? I have to start small.

This week I did some little things. I’ve made some art cards, worked on some ink book drawings, and drew a few 6×9 inch drawings. There is not a lot sense of accomplishment in those small things. They’re all about starting things and not getting things down. Of course starting things is a necessary part of the process but of the things I start only a percentage of them get finished. So they’re less satisfying to do.

Just yesterday I finally got something done. Not quite all the way done but nearly done. I took one of my new 6×9 inch drawings, set it up as one of my “Dreams of Things” comic book covers, and inked it. I ended up with a new 11×17 ink drawing. It’s not finished in the sense that I eventually will color it with markers but I usually don’t do that right away. I’ll put it in a pile with other drawings like it and one day I’ll pull it from that pile and color it. But that day is not today. So I’ll have to be satisfied with almost finishing something for now.