Many visual artists have no particular trouble starting pieces but lots of trouble finishing them. Why is finishing a work of art problematic for so many artists? In this series we’ll look at twelve reasons. Here’s reason number six:

Reason 6. Ongoing conflicts about what and how much to reveal

All artists expose themselves in their art. One artist may expose his sexual fantasies or his sexual obsessions. Another artist may expose her rages and resentments. A third may expose an unpopular belief or violate some cultural rule or norm. An abstract artist may fear that his audience will suppose that he can’t really draw, even though he can, and by painting abstractly thus expose himself to suppressed or overt ridicule. Even the most “innocent” sort of work, where, for example, the subject matter is a bowl of apples or a vase of roses, is an exposure of sorts, perhaps in a conflicted artist’s mind exposing his lack of innovation or imagination.

All art says something about the artist—and an artist may be conflicted about whether she likes what her art says about her or what it reveals about her. The easiest way to deal with this conflict is to not complete things: then no one will ever see your art and no exposure or ridicule is possible. Many artists fail to complete their works of art because they are in an inner battle about whether or not they are happy about what their art reveals about them.

The answer is to bring this conflict into conscious awareness and deal with it. Decide one way or the other whether you are willing to reveal your sexual fantasies, your simmering rage, or your disagreements with your society. Say out loud, “I am not worried in the slightest that I’ll be charged with not being able to draw” or “I don’t care at all what people infer about my imagination—or lack of imagination—because I want to paint apples and roses.” Decide your position on these issues and then stand behind your decision! If you stay on the fence, the likelihood is great that your work will not get done.

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