When Fixing Becomes Fussing

Here’s an important creative lesson that I learned a long time ago but still often forget: Drop your pen the second that applying the finishing touches turns into fussing.

Contrary to what this portrait of him implies, my bun buddy Frodo is a fairly light sandy brown. This must be his goth persona. I got mad about the proportions of his head and couldn’t let it go, and the more I worked to try and fix it, the more definition got lost in all the shading. I don’t hate it, but I do think it was better before I tried to fix it.

This probably applies to just about every creative endeavor, although not all art forms are so mercilessly devoid of delete keys. Part of what I love about pen and ink drawing is that, no matter what happens, there’s no going back. You can only move forward or stop. It’s the knowing when to stop part that can sometimes be a challenge. Or, actually stopping when you know you should, which is more often the case for me. I can usually feel the moment when I start fussing, but sometimes I lie to myself about how if I just darken a few shadows and add a few extra details it’ll be even more finished than it is now.

I am almost always wrong. Once a thing is finished, fussing usually doesn’t make it better. It’s as good as it will be. Maybe it’s as good as it should be.

I don’t know how to define the line between editing and fussing, but I’m certain that a lot more cool art and stories would reach the outside world if there was some sort of magic invisible hand that slapped the pens out of our hands whenever we crossed it.

A pen and ink sketch of a rabbit. There’s a lot of crosshatching. It looks kinda fierce, for a rabbit. That’s probably appropriate, since this particular rabbit just punched my dog for looking at him funny and then tried to eat my sketchbook.

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