Lately I’ve been in the midst of decluttering my art studio and I’ve got a heap of stuff to get rid of! I’ve certainly waxed on and on here about letting stuff go but today I want to share my argument for keeping stuff. This argument is not necessarily one that can be applied to all categories of “stuff” in our homes or work life but it’s certainly relevant for “artists” who work a process.
As both an artist and an organizer, I often have partially (un) finished works in progress (WIP’s) laying around my studio. Unlike partially made food, most art projects don’t have an expiration date and reviewing older work can spark both joy and inspiration to grow and work in a new direction! Some of the artist I work with invite me to participate in the process of reviewing work they have made. Together we sort into the Keep or Toss piles just like we might do with anything else (clothes, books etc). A lot can be said for tossing some of our badly made, “UGLY” art! Seriously, sometimes I look at some things I made and it just makes me cringe. I don’t want to keep those things, in most cases, not even to re-purpose into something else or give away.
Then there’s the argument for keeping stuff that is worth exploring further. Maybe it’s a certain technique, a color combination, something striking about composition or something nostalgic that evokes a personal response. All of these are great reasons to hold onto some of our art that might not be “best work” or finished. One of the most challenging aspects of making works of any type of art is knowing when to say it’s done. If something is undercooked or we leave it on the burner too long, it’s no longer edible. Art can be like that too, if it’s under developed or overworked it might just have to go (into the trash). But we learn from our creative mistakes! Part of the process of developing our skills is to review our mistakes and our successes. Looking back at work we made that helps us to grow argues a strong case for keeping some things that might not have been finished or “successful”.
I once read an article on creative process where the artist Robbi Joy Eklow suggested a “Time Out Box” for works of this nature. We do this with kids and with kids toys, why not our art? Setting something that you are unsure of aside so that you can come back later, review it again to see if it “Sparks Joy” is a great way to learn from your creative process. I’ve gone back to sketchbooks from 20+ years ago and found ideas that I’ve revisited and been overjoyed with. I don’t think there’s any time limit on creative incubation, do you?