50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Artwork

By Carrie Brummer in Art Business Advice > Motivation

Do you see your unfinished artwork as something with unlimited potential? You should! Because that’s what it is.

Remember, having unfinished art is a NATURAL, REGULAR, NORMAL part of creative process. After a while, though, that pile of work can start feeling like growing evidence of everything you haven’t done.

When you start to feel this way it’s time to cull. It’s time to “Marie Kondo” that stuff. It’s time to face that pile of incomplete work.

Here are 50 great things to do with unfinished art:

1. Paint over it.

2. Swap it with a friend and have them finish it (and finish one of theirs!)

3. Photograph it. Then, manipulate the photographs to get a new idea.

4. Abandoned art project, anyone? (Read more about abandoned art)

5. Cut it up and use the pieces in collages.

6. Cut it up and use it for backgrounds.

7. Choose an entirely new medium to incorporate into the artwork.

8. Upcycle it and incorporate it into a refurbished piece of furniture.

9. Epoxy the painting and make a food tray.

10. Throw it out. (But only if it feels good. <3)

11. Give yourself 2 weeks to a month away from your work. Then look at all of your unfinished pieces. Only finish the ones calling to you. (Give yourself permission NOT to finish one!)

12. Post a photo of the unfinished work in an online community and ask, “Help! How can I finish this?”

13. Ask the artwork, “What else do you want?” Then make time to sit, observe, and listen.

14. Practice new techniques on it.

15. Use the work as a warm up space.

16. Embroider into it.

17. Cut pieces out.

18. Make a quilt from all of your unfinished works.

19. Collage over the top of it.

20. Create a relief by building on top of it.

21. Flip it upside down or sideways and finish it with the new orientation.

22. Splatter paint on top a la Jackson Pollack, then reinterpret the work.

23. Make coasters from your cut up pieces.

24. Disassemble it and use the pieces for other works.

25. Feel attached but still need to let go? Hold a goodbye ceremony for the work.

26. Journal about it. Start by asking, “What story do I see in this artwork?” Use your answer for inspiration.

27. Collect leaves or other pieces of nature and decoupage them onto it.

28. Use it as the start of a new artwork inspired by recent travel (find those ticket stubs, photos, etc, and add them to it.)

29. Create a vision board with it.

30. Paint on it with your eyes closed.

31. Finger paint on it.

32. Draw (or paint) contour drawings on it for 30 days. Just layer them on top of each other.

33. Find a quote that pairs with the work and use it to inspire your finishing decisions.

34. Give it away.

35. Donate the work to an art teacher for supplies.

36. Blog about it, and any of your other unfinished pieces. Make it your very own “Diary of Unfinished Artworks.”

37. Ignore it. Listen to the excitement you feel about your other work and let that encourage you to finish those instead.

38. Hide it.

39. Share it with a local art group meetup and ask for feedback.

40. Start over with the same idea on a new surface.

41. Create five new artworks inspired by the unfinished work.

42. Write down a list of 5 things you learned from the work.

43. List 5 skills you want to develop because of the work.

44. Thank your unfinished art for its lessons and discovery.

45. Meditate on the image.

46. Trace pieces of the work and use it for a new work.

47. Cut it up and piece it back together.

48. Congratulate yourself for creating—it’s about doing the work, NOT the product.

49. Monoprint on top.

50. Invert your colors and paint it again.

Special thanks to Carrie Brummer, artist, educator, entrepreneur and founder of www.ArtistStrong.com. Check out her free art workshop series on altered books and start cultivating your creativity today!


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