Have you ever been expecting guests for dinner, but when you open the oven door you see a dish that is clearly not servable? I haven’t because my husband does almost all of the cooking and therefore I don’t face these potentially jeopardizing hosting experiences. I do, however, bake and during the holidays especially will gift these baked goods, which is where my critical eye comes into play. I have no problem tossing the ones I deem to be not servable, but I do not actually throw them away. My husband made a very good point that there is no reason we cannot gift these to ourselves as they are indeed still edible. Appearances aren’t everything, so let’s help ourselves to the non-perfect looking treats. Truly.

There’s a lot to be said for presentation, and there is a lot of emphasis on it. Watch any cooking show, and you are going to see effort go into the plating of the dish that does not represent how it will taste, but does enhance the appeal to at least try it. PowerPoint also comes to mind with presentation and the pressure of the visuals enhancing the sell or the point you are making (not sure the slides add power, but whatever). Or the importance of outfits matching the occasion. I’ll take over-dressed for sure.

Something about presentation brings out the critic. We often are our own worst. I’ve heard of coaches who will win a game but keep going back over it to see if there were anything they could have done differently so their team could have performed even better. I’ve heard of musicians who could point to the one note they played wrong in an entire performance. An artist friend told me of a painter who would make one mistake and decide to start over. That made me gasp.  

One of, if not the biggest, challenges with art is knowing when it is complete. There isn’t a playbook with “if-thens” that you can go by to know when to shout “Omaha” (little shout out to the football fans) or spike the paint for the win (phenomenally messy). Unless you set your own timer, there is no bell that signals it’s time to put down your supplies and turn in your canvases. A piece is complete because you say it is. So how do you know?

It can be easy to overthink, overwork, doubt or criticize what you are working on…hence, my coming up with some sort of parameter to determine if it is done or not. Truthfully, there are times I just know it is done because it just feels right. Like it has landed. But that is vague and not helpful in the instances when you have no idea if it is done or not.

I take the approach of having a theme as my starting point. The times where I don’t know if the piece has indeed landed, I hold it up against the theme (figuratively) and gauge if I’ve hit the target. It doesn’t need to be a bullseye, but at least on the actual target. If it is, great. I then decide if I am adding any finishing touches or leaving as is. If not, I keep working on it.

Strangely, complete has not meant, “liked.” I have had a few occasions when I knew a piece was done but that did not mean I liked it, which was odd. Especially as I was the one driving the outcome. Even so, if it’s complete, it’s complete, and so I have let them be. They still hold meaning. And they make great gifts. I have not tossed any because it’s good to remember the journey. My husband and I are acquiring quite the collection.