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Carving Project Completion

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When carving how do you know when to stop detailing before it starts to ruin or altering what you are trying to do?  Does anyone have a good rule of thumb or a trigger point to say enough is enough??  Sorry, should have put under a different forum.

I don't care what medium you work in, be it wood, stone, oil paint, whatever, any artist will tell you this is always a problem. How do you know when you're done? For me many times it's because I'm sick of looking at it. And then after I've decided it's done I'll look at it again and still see things I should have done. It's good if you have someone you can use as a sounding board. I'll show carvings to my wife and she'll usually point out areas that she feels need more work. I usually just say "OK" and then decide on my own if I agree with her. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. If you're like most artists you'll never be 100% satisfied with what you've created. Sometimes you just have to say,"That's it, it's done."

Charles Hubbard and Bill Sisko have reacted to this post.
Charles HubbardBill Sisko

That’s hysterical...I ask my wife the same thing....how does this look...then I still don’t believe her and keep back at it...  I am glad to hear I am not the only one?.  Thanks again Jim.

When I am working on a commission the best way to determine when I am finished is when I begin to get below minimum wage 🙂 Then it's time to put the chisel down and walk away.

When I am working on a project for myself it's a lot more difficult. I honestly can say I never really feel that a project is ever completely finished. I remember when I asked Christopher Schwarz how I know when my book is finished his answer was great. "When you are so sick of seeing it, reading it, editing it, and you want to throw it on the ground and stomp on it - and then throw it into the fire. Then you're done..."

Maybe that's a bit extreme. But yes - other people's eyes on your work certainly help. My husband has offered many suggestions that I would never have considered. Even thought it often causes a project to take longer, it is good to have other eyes viewing it, as we can easily go down one track and not see certain things.

Not sure if any of that helped, but make sure whatever, that you are still having fun!

Tom Weir, Alan Downs and Salman Khattak have reacted to this post.
Tom WeirAlan DownsSalman Khattak

Hahaha...thank you Mary.  It is helpful.  Since I just do these for fun I guess I am always below min wage?.  I am really enjoying this.  Thanks for everything!!

I am trying to finish my first project, the Calla Lily.

I have called it finished a couple times and then looked at it again the next day.  When I refine it, it generally had improved it a great deal.

Yes, I do ask my wife to check it out, but at this time, she inspects it for any blemish.  Does an inspection or qualification for "done-ness" include a 6" review or an across the room check it out.  I had a painter quote a house painting job as a 6 foot, 10 foot, or from the street quality standard.  My wife goes for the 6' inspection which becomes a 2 inch view of the work.

So, calling it done is very hard so far.  I am certain that as I identify the look that I want; then I might know how to call it as done:  "Enough is Enough"  😉


Looking for honest feedback and words of wisdom from those that have already traveled this road ahead of me.

Hello Alan. There doesn't seem to be much activity on this Forum any more so I'll try and amplify my comments that I made a while back about this subject.

Consider this. Let's say you walk into an art gallery and you see a wood-carved calla lily. It interests you and you move in for a closer look. Do you give it the 2-inch or 6-inch inspection? Probably not. You've already gotten an overall impression of the work and you probably either think it's good, or not so good. I think that's what you need to go for here. If you put your work away for a week and then come back to it and take a look does it look good to you, or not? If it looks good, it's probably time to stop and consider it done. Most artists tend to be hyper-critical of their own work and you may be even more so since it's your first project. Trust me, it will never be perfect in your eyes.

I read somewhere that most people who take up woodcarving come from two camps. There's the people who have worked in other artistic media, such as painting, and those that come from a woodworking background. The artists tend to be able to "finish" a project once it meets the artistic vision they were striving for. The woodworkers, on the other hand, tend to agonize over every little imperfection because, let's face it, when you're building furniture and it's out of square or the finish has blemishes it sticks out. I came from the woodworking camp and I do have a problem with declaring my carvings done.

Anyway, hope this helps a little. Time to finish that lily and move on to something else. Every carving is a learning experience.

Alan Downs has reacted to this post.
Alan Downs

Thanks for the feedback Jim!

yes, I had noticed that this forum is very quiet.  Too bad, are there other carving forums out there.  I am too new to this world to know much yet.

I am attaching my “completed” Calla Lily.  Yes, I do suppose I might touch it a few times, but at arms length I think it is not too bad for my first bigger project.  But as I look at the snapshot, I see some more correction that I will want to make.  ?

Thanks to Mary for her lessons.


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I think it's well done and you have a carving you can be proud of. What's your next carving?

As for other forums, I think Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine has a forum on their website but it's been a while since I was there. You might want to check it out.

Next one; I am evaluating a couple options.  I started one yesterday that I think I started poorly.  I will move ahead anyway.  But it is a pair of eagles facing each other with lots of feather detail.  I do not think the free pattern was designed for relief carving.  But I do not give up real easily.

Most likely, I am gonna try the Open Book and Rose that Mary recently posted.

There are no shortage of options even on this site and all of them provide good fun for me.

Thanks for the feedback also.

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