Craig Oates

Upon Completion


Art Practice

All Articles


On more than one occasion, I've spoken to a person whom feels like they are having a nice conversation with me. But, from my point of view I would've said it was more akin to someone rambling at me. And, this projectile ramble has a tendency to come at me with a fast and hard enthusiasm. Which can force me to leave the lights on whilst I slip out the back door, if you know what I mean... That doesn't mean to say, every conversation like this is a total train wreck. Sometimes, there are moments of real insight into a person or subject when you keep quiet. Sometimes, it's can be beneficial to just observe. So, having said the above, I ask you to adopt a observational mind-set for the rest of this text. The reason why is because this is going to be a ramble.

The rambling will be on three topics. The first one will be about declaring an artwork as done. The second one is about dating artworks and the last is about titling them. And, due to the nature of this piece of writing, there's no standard structure. Instead, I've broken it down into the topics already listed and mused over them a little. All three don't have a traditional beginning, middle or end. But, each one does aim to have a logical flow. Although, I guess you'll be the judge of that.

Declared as Done

Declaring an artwork as "finished" is a difficult task. Although, the reason why is easy to explain. It's because you never know with absolute certainty if it's "done". An artwork can appear finished for years for it to then dawn on you: No it's not. And, how you handle the situation will vary -- adding to your woes. Is the hypothetical artwork on display in a temporary exhibition? Is it in a permanent or private collection? Is it still in the studio? Has it been in any publications? If the artwork requires a change, some scenarios are easier than others for the artist to apply it. On top of that, each artist will have their own opinion on changing an artwork. Some artists will be okay with altering a piece and others won't. That doesn't mean it's a yes or no game, though. There are quite a few bits in the middle to play with. For example, the "mistakes" can become part of the artworks history and, in-turn, its identity. Thus, removing the "accident" can neuter it. Trying to plan for these "post-production-edits", though, is fool-hardy. By definition, they're mistakes and reflect on the artist in a negative light more often than not. So, the appropriate action to take is to try minimising them. But, if they do crop-up, deal with them there and then, on a case-by-case basis. The easiest way to avoid these mishaps is to know when the artwork is "finished". Simple, right? That way the artist will have corrected the mistakes and mishaps. But, how does the artist know when to the declare the piece as complete? When does the artist know when the artwork is ready?

Dating Habits

The date assigned to each artwork I've finished doesn't mark the time I applied the last "stroke" to it. Instead, it marks the time I declared the piece as finished. And, the time between the last stroke and the declaration is indeterminate. For example, I've taken up to two years in some instances. The most notable one, which comes to mind, is the drawings1 I did of Nicola Ellis'2 sculptures. I drew them in the summer of 2014 but it took me until late 2016 to call them completed.

For me to declare an artwork as finished, I must have a title for it. But, my declaration isn't made straight away -- once I have one. It still needs to pass my "liveability" test. The test is comes in the form of a question and it is a simple one: Can I live with the artwork on a daily basis? To conduct the test, I leave it out in plain view. If I don't get bored of it or see an oversight after a fair amount of time, I mark it as done. I do this by marking the date on the back of the drawing. The fair amount I mentioned above varies from piece to piece. But, I don't recall going any shorter than two weeks with any piece I've made.

Naming Things

Naming an artwork is a difficult task. The biggest hurdle the artist needs to overcome is balancing the trade-off. That trade-off being the difference between being too vague and too explicit. The reason why is because you can hinder the viewing experience. If the title is too vague, the viewer can feel like they are looking at a "black box". And, if the title is too explicit, the viewer can feel like they have been strong-armed. They can't help but feel like they should interpret the piece in a particualar way. And, this is regardless of their own opinion.

More often than not, I like my titles somewhere in-between the two extremes. So, to help me achieve my goals of creating titles which are neither too vague or specific, I tend to follow a pattern. Which involves me focusing on the artworks immediate visuals. I, also, try to minimise the reliance on external content and context. Although, none of the above is something I adhere to with absolute devotion. It's more of a rule-of-thumb.

Light Blue Planes, 2012

To show my point, please consider the example above. The animation name is "Light Blue Planes". It's a title which is descriptive but it's not explicit about how to interpret it.

Referenced Links

  1. A drawing of Nicola Ellis' sculptures (This is just one of several)