I know he was a genius but I have to disagree with Leonardo da Vinci.

Apparently he once wrote;

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

…which strikes me as a rather defeatist way of deciding when a piece of work is complete. But if getting started on a blank canvas is daunting, then I’m not the only one who finds knowing when it’s time to stop is near impossible!

A little confession. I’m great at starting projects and not quite completing them; the curtains with the hem still pinned, the work top stripped of old varnish but not yet re-waxed, I’m not even very good at putting my clothes away at the end of the day. What is it about finishing?

Maybe it’s because it feels so complete, so final. When something is finished it’s like announcing in a bold voice “This is now perfect, I can improve on it no further”. And it takes a bold person who is comfortable with that when it comes to artwork!

This has been a week of finishing things. It was the last few days I had to work on pieces before they had to be at the framer ready for the upcoming Spring Studio Show. No pressure there then! And yet we all know how a little bit of pressure in the form of a looming deadline is often the extra push we need to get things done…

On Monday morning I was feeling slightly sick. I knew I had some lovely pieces and yet there was something about them that didn’t feel quite ‘settled’. It’s very hard to put your finger on but I often enjoy the loose beginning stages when you are reacting in a more instinctive way to get your initial ideas down.

365create project from Alice Sheridan

This has all gone too bright and lost it’s balance…

But there comes a point where you need a more considered approach to go from ‘in progress’ to ‘complete’. This is also the stage where it can go wrong and you can ruin all the work that has gone before. This can be a matter of opinion – I have been posting daily images on Instagram of my #365create project and one day I posted “this is the day it all goes wrong” and people commented to say they disagreed – they liked it just as it was.

Which is lovely to hear, but you have to get it to the stage where you feel comfortable to present it. Sometimes of course we get this wrong – we are too close to the emotion of the painting and the effort it has taken to get there to be able to see it objectively.

Last month I was talking to a gallery owner who told me about a visit he had made to an artist’s studio to review new work.

A canvas was on the easel, but the artist was unsure; still debating with himself… He asked the gallery owner’s wife what she thought. And as soon as she said “It looks finished to me”, he whipped it off the easel and announced “Well, that’s good enough!”

And it seems I’m not the only one. Also on Instagram this week I came across the work of Linda Colletta when she posted her dilemma about two pieces she was working on, “Think these might be done. No promises”

It was the “No Promises” bit that got me. Because that’s exactly the way it ends… you think you are there. You’ve got a bit too close so you need to take a relationship break and see if something keeps drawing you back.

visit to the framers with paintings by Alice Sheridan

made it to the framers in time.. choosing the right frame is a whole separate issue!

And this was the way it worked for me. The pace slows right down… I have an old Thai lounging cushion in my studio that unfolds along the floor. It’s just perfect for sitting back and contemplating. And this is what I did. I waited. And then I could see which parts needed adjusting and they moved from uncomfortable to settled and I knew they were finished.

So, going back to Leonardo and his abandoned art? Perhaps he’s right and art becomes abandoned when you have no more to say. Or perhaps it’s like bringing up a child… you do your best, you never get it perfect but at some point they are ready to go out into the world and make it their own. I prefer this way of thinking about it.

Time doesn’t stand still, you have to keep moving things forward. By freeing yourself up from a piece of work it no longer has to become the sole answer, you can move on to another painting. As your work finishes each new painting is ready to go and be part of someone else’s world. This isn’t abandoned, this is set free!

Do you paint? How do you know when something is finished?

Do you ever look at a painting and feel it’s incomplete and the artists abandoned it too soon? Let me know…

If you expect ‘being creative’ is the same as being productive you are expecting too much.

Part of the process is simply a conscious awareness. An awareness of surroundings and influences so that you choose which of these are relevant and which you will draw into your work. I have been out of the studio this week as it has been half term. We have spent part of the time in Devon and as result my mental colour palette has been changing.

Recently I have been working on series of paintings for our upcoming Spring Show which use brighter colours than usual – lots of warm oranges and pinks in amongst the landcape colours. This series isn’t complete yet (I know, I know; artists and deadlines…!) and I’m looking forward to getting back to them.

B365create_014ut February in Dartmoor is not known for tropical warmth so my days recently have been more like this…. Beautiful misty greys and greens, sometimes shot through with a bolt of yellow as the sun breaks through, sometimes punctuated by a rich rusty orange of a remaining winter berry nestled in the deep green of a hedge. These are more my kind of colours!

Is this because I’m an English girl of the English landscape? I’m not sure – I grew up in inner London and we can notice and pick up whatever colours we like from our surroundings. Yet, just as we have favourite colours to wear or to decorate out homes, we are often drawn towards a certain grouping.

So, back in London yesterday, as I set out for my daily dog walk I thought I would try and spot some of my favourites – to be aware and notice which colours from the February landscape could also be spotted in an urban environment. It was the kind of gPhotowalk Alice Sheridan #365createrey foreboding sky I quite like and as I walked and snapped away, I realised why. I love brights and I love sludgy but it’s the combination of both together that makes things zing.

The dilapidated walls of an acqua tiled underpass, the orange metal crane reaching into the sky above the buildings, the colours of lichen against the greyish bark and stone.

All these could make wonderful colour combinations for a painting and might at some stage. Who knows? No need to decide right now.

I have used this photographic process of recording visual ideas, like a sort of immediate sketchbook, for a while now. Sometimes I back them up and store them in folders on my computer, but often they just act as a signal for what it is interesting to me at the moment. Like a signpost pointing me in the right direction. Noticing what crops up or repeats time and time again is a good clue – if we take the time to notice.

Pin this idea for later

This was Day 20 of my #365create project. Not every day is full of creative output;some days are more reflective.

You can read more about it here, but if you like the idea and would like to see where it leads why not join my newsletter list below?



Any creative journey is a strange balance between knowing where you are going and being open to new things along the way.

viewing at an art fair

I will be reporting on my year of #365create in posts like this. You can use the Instagram link at the top of the page to follow daily.

On Thursday I headed off to see the Works on Paper show which is currently on at the Science Museum in London. A lot of it was not to my taste (historic maritime prints not for me) but there were also some gems to be discovered so it was an interesting collection: a Peter Lanyon painting on paper for £24,000 anyone?

I also found a gallery whose selection of work I did enjoy and for the first time plucked up the courage to talk to the owner about what he looks for in artists to represent. The realtionship between artist and gallery has to be a symbiotic one – they both have to benefit from the realtionship and until now it is something I have been wary of. I have seen too many artists repeatedly producing replicas because it’s what their gallery expects from them and what they know they can sell. I don’t want to be tied down to a particular style. Now, this may be my own inaccurate perceptions, or my nervousness that I haven’t yet found my own ‘style’ and I’m not ready for this stage.

I admitted this: “I’m not ready yet,” I said and the reply was “When you are, let me know. We are looking for artists who will still change but who know where they are going.”

After this I noticed another exhibition I hadn’t expected at all in the Science Museum: Nick Hedges’ work for Shelter “Make Life Worth Living”.

Nick Hedges black and white photograph

Nick Hedges 1969

A series of a hundred small black and white photographs showing life in some of the poorest housing. Shockingly, not the 30s depression era, but taken between 1968 and 1972. This is the first time they have been on display to protect the identity of the subjects. As I moved along the eye level display I found I was increasingly moved; difficult to decide if the images are depressing or uplifting – possibly a mix of both; sometimes great human strength in very testing conditions, sometimes shock at the lack of my own knowledge.

A few still stand out in my memory: the blackened filthy bath in shared bathing facilities, the incredibly smart and proud man who had had no job for three months yet was still suited smartly amid the damp and dirty surroundings, the group of exuberant teenagers still displaying a lust for life despite their uneasy start, the children sleeping on a bed in a room with no windows, no bedding and no mattress.

It’s a unique and thought provoking set of images and I urge you to go if you get the chance. It was the most powerful thing I saw that day, but..

 it hadn’t been my destination; it was my detour.

What if I had stayed hellbent on just seeing what I set out to see? In such a hurry that I just kept looking at where I was going and not allowed myself to deviate from my plan?

If we relate this to what we choose to do daily, ometimes the detours we take along the way can give us the most in return. A boost of something unexpected; a different viewpoint. Isn’t that an important part of what does, actually, make life worth living?

Do I know where I’m going? Maybe I don’t want to? Do you?



Make Life Worth Living is on until the end of February 2015 FREE second floor, Science Museum

Photograph credit:  © Nick Hedges “Anarchy” Toxteth, 1969. National Media Museum, Bradford