Finishing the Mona Lisa!

by Gary Powell

Many of you think of your songwriting as art and for others it is a product. It’s the same with producers, engineers, choreographers and painters. However, regardless of the discipline, neither the art nor the product becomes real until it’s finished.

A documentary hosted by art critic Tim Marlow on the Gallery HD Channel suggested Leonardo DaVinci never really finished painting the Mona Lisa. DaVinci, the artist, had worked on it for decades and the only reason it is now “finished” is because DaVinci himself died! (Maybe this is where we got the word deadline.)

It seems Leonardo used the process of painting the Mona Lisa to discover new painting techniques. I would speculate that his process might also have been part of his inward journey. Our best art involves the conscious enmeshment of the outer brush stroke with the inner dialogue.

Real artists ask both more of themselves AND their chosen discipline.

Many musicians struggle with letting go and knowing when a recording project is finished. If that resonates with you, then it might suggest a desire for deepening the relationship with the music itself, not your audience. Maybe it’s time to cancel the photo shoot and book a class!

I have found that individuals who dwell over minutia are often just looking for better tools to express themselves. When indulged in their quirky “artistry”, their productivity can bog down even further. We often assign the term “brilliant” to these people when, in truth, their curious, artistic nature is nothing more than a “quirky” mixture of personal insecurity and professional incompetence. “I’m scared and I don’t know much, so I must have a posse to shield the truth.” All of us artisans carry some of this psychology. I’m suggesting we consciously manage it in order to use it to our advantage.

I almost always hold myself to a higher standard than what is expected from clients. Dreams of perfection are richly embedded in the search for my true self. However, capitalism has this wonderful little devise called a “deadline” which brings projects to a close very quickly if one expects to be paid. Read this interesting article from the Medical Laboratory Observer if you have performance anxieties around the psychology of deadlines.

It will serve us all well to come to terms with what defines a healthy indulgence in detail and what does not. Like DaVinci, any “finished” art is by nature a compromise by the artist simply due to the parallel process of living lives which are ever unfolding. As we learn, assimilate, and transform, whether consciously or not, so does our art.

Know when it’s time to let the art go. When you do, you can then give birth to a new creation in its place and in its honor. Your next piece of art will not only take on the reflection of your life and continued journey, but will create a wonderful record of your path and growth as a human being.

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2 thoughts on “Finishing the Mona Lisa!”

  1. Wow, fantastic post. You said more than a mouthful, or a mind-ful.

    I hope you’re not making the point that to make true art, we must first die. That would make for a sad life.

  2. You’ve made some excellent points. You’ve got to know when to walk away. I record something and then walk away when I feel like I’ve nailed it. If I sit there and replay it over and over and fret over miniscule details, I’ll compromise the original intention and vision of the project and end up with a lot of irrelevent ideas that work as what they are, but have no cohesion. Therefore, all is lost. Hopefully people will understand my music before I’m dead. If not, I’ll settle for biceps.

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