Using To-Do Lists for Works in Progress

Art & GTD Part 4 of 5

We all use a workflow to some degree when we do our work, and having one written out is especially useful when you’re trying to get the hang of something new. The creative workflow is pretty intuitive to begin with and becomes more so the more you do it. You reach a point where you don’t need it written down anymore and you can do your thing without really thinking about it.

This is true for just about everybody, regardless of what they do. An experienced mechanic has his checklist/workflow in his head, and checking things off on a sheet of paper on a clipboard list is just a formality. An experienced artist does this as well. You don’t hear of anybody telling B.B. King to tune his guitar. He just does it. He doesn’t think about it.

However, it sometimes helps to write down a list of things to tackle on a given piece or a group of pieces. This list can include anything from finishing the highlights on a certain piece, or making an appointment with yourself to photograph your pieces for submission to a show.

Personally I don’t do it all that often these days, since I usually know what to do after about five minutes of studying a painting in progress. But sometimes as I finish a piece, I’ll write down on an index card:

  • Glaze some shadows beneath the people on the sidewalk
  • Scumble some highlights on the windows of the storefronts
  • Fix the perspective of the lines in the sidewalk

When I’m done, I’ll put a note in my tickler file to varnish the piece in 4 to 6 months once it’s completely dry.

Using a to-do list for current projects can help when you get stuck. This way you can take a break, come back to it later, and pick back up at the right place.