artistic development / online workshops

7 stages of art


Last week I had the kind of day where you spend most of your time sitting in a waiting room.  Fortunately I had the book “Minding the Muse” by Priscilla Long in my bag and so I spent most of my day absorbed in it.  It’s a small book, just 112 pages but it’s a really good read.  In one of the chapters the author says “the artists work might be divided into three stages: the making stage, the critiquing and refining stage, and the purveying stage”.  I’ve spent the last several days thinking on this statement and I’ve come to my own conclusion.  It seems to me that there are actually 7 stages of art that the artist has to work through…

Stage 1 – Inspiration & Brainstorming
This is the stage where the artist imagines the possibilities, refines the idea, sketches and lays all the ground work for the artwork they will make.

Stage 2 – Making
This is where the construction of the artwork begins.  This is an exciting stage!  The idea is fresh and the artist feels invigorated and motivation to keep working is very high.

Stage 3 – Doubt
Somewhere along the making of the artwork the artist may start to feel some doubt creeping into the art making process..  It may be hard for the artist to reconcile what the piece looks like at this stage to what the intention of the finished piece will be.  So doubt creeps in and the artist may start to question whether or not to continue on the piece.  One of two things usually happens at this point: either the artist trusts the integrity of the original vision and their skills and pushes through to the next stage or they abandon the artwork to the unfinished or WIP (work in progress pile) where it promptly gets forgotten about.

Stage 4 – Evaluate
Once past stage three the artist may step back from the work to assess what’s working and what’s not.  What changes or refinements need to be made, which techniques and materials need to be introduced in order to continue to move the work forward.  This can be a tough stage to get through and some artists may need to walk away from the work for a period of time in order to be able to look at it objectively with fresh eyes.  They may feel the need to reach out to a peer group for feedback.

Stage 5 – Refinement
At this stage the artist makes changes based on the results of stage four.   They may experiment with different approaches, techniques and materials to determine which will give them the results that they need to bring the artwork to completion.

Stage 6 – Completion
Finally the the piece is just about complete.  All the major work has been done, the finishing touches are applied and the work is declared finished.  Now at this point the artist either as a piece of work that they are happy with, that looks the way they envisioned way back in step one or may have even grown beyond that initial vision but they are still pleased with or they have a piece of work that falls short of that vision.  Regardless of which situation the artist has, the next stage is a critical one.

Stage 7 – Critique
I think this last stage is probably one of the most important and it’s one that no artist should skip over.  If you want to grow, develop and evolve then you have to do two things: you have to push past stage 3 and you can’t skip stage 7.  If you never get past stage three then you can’t get to stage 7!  You must finish pieces in order to learn from them.  Without completion there can be no final critique or evaluation and you are setting yourself up for the same results with your next piece.  This final critique stage is where you step back and evaluate what worked, what didn’t and what you would do differently on the next piece.  The answers to these questions can be used to inform the approach, materials and techniques that you use in your next piece before you begin it.   It’s a critical stage – don’t skip it!  My friend Lyric Kinard has written a terrific pocket guide to help the artist critique their own work and I highly recommend it.  Click here to get yours.

I’ll be covering all of these topics in depth in my Artistic Development 101 online class.

6 thoughts on “7 stages of art

  1. Pingback: new year, new quilt |

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  3. I agree that there are all these stages. Step three is necessary so that you can adapt your original vision to the reality of the material, your skills, etc. I often skip step seven, because I don’t want to be negative to myself after going through all these processes. Reward myself for finishing instead of punishing. But I do agree that it is a necessary step and I will try it in my next (or maybe even a previously finished) project.


    • Step 7 is not about being negative or criticizing the work – critique and criticism are two very different words and in stage 7 are not interchangeable. Critique is about evaluating the work and looking at what worked and what didn’t. I talk about this a little in my previous blog post on working in a series and I’ll be covering it in depth in one of the lessons in my artistic development online class that starts in June.


  4. Pingback: Finish it! |

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