Work in progress, 12"x16" oil on canvas. © Sarah Marie Lacy.

Work in progress, 12"x16" oil on canvas. © Sarah Marie Lacy.

I noticed something the other day, something that I’ve never really noticed before.

I’m really bad at finishing things. I’ve always got a million projects on the go, but I’ll be damned if I can get any of them finished.

I can’t believe I never noticed this before. I mean, I’ve been doing it my entire life – even as a child, people would buy me craft kits or I’d start some project and it would reach a certain point and then, poof! It’d disappear. Or, more accurately, my interest would disappear.

I can actually list the projects that I never finished – jewellery making kits, papier mache pigs and skunks (don’t ask), paper dolls, clothing for my Barbie dolls, elaborate Indian head dresses I was going to make for my friend (again, don’t ask). That novel I was going to write when I was 7. Soap making kits, rubber butterfly magnet making kits, embroidery kits, cross stitching kits. Beading kits. The list goes on and on. I’ve probably forgotten half of it.

I think the only thing that ever gained any traction was first drawing, and then origami. Yes, I used to be an origami fiend. I was actually pretty decent and at one point had constructed an entire castle with population included as well as the more difficult folds in the origami books I could get my hands on. (This was around the time when I was first diagnosed with CFS – I had a lot of extra time on my hands.)

But then one day, art came along and the rest is history, as they say.

Unfortunately, my tendency not to finish things decided to tag along.


Here’s what I think happens – I start a project, a painting, whatever, and in my head, it is magnificent. Breathtaking. A masterpiece.

So I get to work on it, and I’m trundling along quite happily, laying in the foundations and then the first layers of detail and so on. Then there reaches a point, when it’s about 75% completed, and I get stuck. I get frustrated. The magnificent masterpiece in my head isn’t quite showing up on the canvas.

I get disillusioned.

It’s like having kids

My paintings are like my babies. And when they first start, I have all of these glorious ideas about how awesome they’re going to be. But when they start to deviate and decide that they really love hockey but I really wanted them to be a ballerina…well, you can see where the problem is.

So I kind of abandon them. It’s like my ego goes, “Fine! You don’t wanna be what I want you to be, then we’re just not talking anymore. So there. ” And then sticks it’s tongue out.

Which would be why I have 6 paintings on the go right now, and why I’m stuck on all of them.

Letting go of expectations

What I need to do is learn how to be a better parent. It’s all well and good to have this vision in my head – that’s part of the artistic process – but when I let my ego get in there and say that it’s the only acceptable result of a piece of art. Well, that’s where the problem starts.

I need to learn how to lay in the foundations for a great painting, but when it reaches that 75% point, let it go. Let it become whatever it wants or needs to become. It’s got a life of it’s own now, I can’t expect it to be something it’s not. Maybe it doesn’t want to look like the vision in my head. Maybe it wants to be it’s own person.

My work is so emotional for me and so intuitive that it’s impossible for me to control it. A lot of what goes into it is really subconscious, and sometimes things wanna come out that I wasn’t expecting. Maybe it ends up being more hopeful than I’d expected, or darker than I’d expected, or something else entirely. Who knows.

But the only way I’m ever going to learn how to finish is if I drop my expectations of what it should be, and learn to accept it and love it as it is. Just like any good parent would. 🙂