UFOs (Un-Finished Objects)

Margaret Riley inspiration studio

UFOs
By Margaret Riley

UFO’s? Are we having visitors from outer space? Wait…UFO’s in our business stands for “Un-finished Objects”. Raise your hand if you have any of those!! I am guilty as charged! We all intend to finish a project when we start it. The big question is when? You just have to put a fire under yourself and be determined to get those projects done! But all those new surfaces out there….just waiting for you to adorn them with paint and possibly doo-dads. Alas! Patience! Get those UFO’s done first. Sigh!

If you have taken a class at a convention or at a scheduled seminar, do you have that project still sitting somewhere that needs to be conquered? Many times, you have gone to a class and the instructor fails to tell you that you will NOT leave with a finished project. If you sign up for a class and don’t finish it, figure out in your schedule when to finish it. I’ve known people to stay up into the night while attending a convention just to finish their project! (Hooray for them! Great determination!) I am not one of those that stay in the room to finish but want to have precious time with friends. I take that project home…UNFINISHED! But if you are like all the rest of the guilty painters, it keeps getting pushed to the back of the cabinet…never to be finished!

How can you avoid these UFO’s? Great question! I’m not sure I have the answer for you, but I can give you some ideas! Lately, I have been finding UFO’s stuck here and stuck there. How did I ever get so many things started and not finish them? One reason was that we moved, and there were so many other projects that had to take priority. If you have a season of snow or a season of rain, those days are the BEST time to work on those unfinished projects. Don’t forget the days of unbearable heat and your retreat is in the house with air conditioning!

Once you read this article, head to your studio or work area. It’s time to declutter and find all those UFO’s! Place them all around on the floor (and if you have to expand into another room, do so!). Next, rate your projects as 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4’s done and put sticky notes on each. Categorize them by placing all the same mediums together (acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc.). This way when you have your acrylic paint out, you can get all those done without having to change out your work table! Grab large storage tubs and place all the acrylic projects together with the 1/4 done projects going in first. Those that are 3/4’s done will be on top as you’ll want to get those done and ready to find them a new home, wall, or for gift giving. Be determined! Getting the UFO’s that are 1/4 done first, then the rest of the pile will decrease more quickly as you continue. If you start with those projects near completion, you’ll be inclined not to get to those that are only started.

When your rainy or snowy season begins, listen to the weather. If there is predicted an inclement day, get out those UFO’s and begin painting. If you are having a blizzard forecasted, you might want to dig down in the tub and get a 1/4 done project since you’ll have consecutive days in the house. During a rainy season, you could have days of rain in the afternoon that will be easily filled finishing the quickest projects first. All day rain will find you getting projects done that only have the pattern drawn onto the surface or just base coated.

When you start to declutter your studio, find a drawer, cabinet, or use a large storage bin to store UFO’s in until you set aside a day to “get ‘er done”!! I have a drawer in my cabinets that I’ve labeled, “To Do”! In another area of the studio, I have one of those fabric bins labeled “To Be Finished”! Set a goal to get these UFO’s done. If you don’t have a studio, find an area to stack those containers of UFO’s, especially in a visible spot. Your goal….get that area back to being empty!

Another thing I find useful is to write a list of projects needing to be finished. After all, I sure can’t remember what is in the bottom of each storage bin! It will relieve you of “digging” in the bin to find out what really will inspire you to get done. (Label each bin with a number and put beside the project on your list.) It can’t snow and rain forever! Satisfaction is when you can mark off that project as being finished from your list!

DO NOT buy another unfinished surface before you finish the UFO’s. Yes, it is hard to pass up a sale, but guaranteed, it will be on sale again! How many of you have purchased an item and have NEVER started anything on it?

Guilty as charged? Sort thru those and ask yourself if you remember what you had in mind to do on that surface. If not, throw it away or donate it to a center for art or to an art teacher. I have one project that I have left unfinished for 15 years. But, lucky me, I have the pattern and instructions taped to it!! Ah-hah! Won’t have to throw that one away or even donate it to someone else to figure out what that weird shape of wood is for! Prioritize! Figure out if something was to go into a specific room. I really want to get our master bedroom done, so, I’ll be painting a couple pieces of furniture and three wall paintings. Whew! And how can anyone say they are bored?

How can you keep from having UFO’s? Don’t start another project. And if you have to go to a craft/sewing store, take hubby with you!! I hate having my hubby sit in a car, with the A/C going, and 100 degrees outside. I go into the store and get what I need. Zip in, Zip out! If you are taking a class, be sure you set aside time later to finish that project! Tell the family that you are busy behind that closed door. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door! The artist is hard at work! Yes, you! Remember...determination!

Just remember the Little Train story, “I think I can, I think I can!” But you will be saying, “I did it! I did it!” Getting those UFO’s done will give you a rejoicing day to go out and celebrate. Now how far is it to the nearest art/painting store???



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  • TIna Bos on

    This is the story of my paint room, so many unfinished projects and surfaces. Over 2,000 books of ideas and 1,700 pattern packs. I now realize having passed 70 years of age, I had better prioritize the unfinished pieces. Having helped dispose of several friends paint rooms with their passing, I realize the only item really thrown out was the unfinished pieces. So, thanks for the inspiration, I will begin the lists. Maybe we could have a post where we take a unfinished items picture and then show it finished, a before and after. Might be interesting. The trick is finding the instructions and paints that go with the pieces, I know some mine are 25 plus years old. I also like the idea of sanding off an old out of style piece and recreating something new on it, great idea. Okay, I am off to begin this quest.

  • Margaret Riley on

    Thanks, Beth! Very well stated. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Beth Stodieck on

    Margaret, I, like you, have UFO’s. Probably dozens and dozens! But I no longer let it stress me out. I read an article by another artist that has stuck with me. Every class we take has a different purpose for every student there. For some, it’s to have a finished piece that they just love or want to give to someone. Others want the experience of taking a class with a particular teacher or to learn about a specific technique or supply. Sometimes it’s okay NOT to finish! If your goal for that class was met, you studied with that teacher, got to use that new product or style or you worked on a special piece you love, don’t stress that it’s not finished! It takes the pressure off and maybe, some day, you’ll find a new motivation for working on that project again. It’s certainly been an eye opening way to look at the situation differently and not stress over something that was supposed to bring me joy. I just wish I could remember who wrote the original article because I owe her a steak dinner for her insight!

  • Norma Wells on

    Yes, this is also “so me”. I have some projects from at least 10 years+ ago. My painting style has changed, I know I can do better now etc. I have decided in many cases to “sand off” (I have a lovely little electric sander) and repaint.
    I have literally cupboards of ‘new’ surfaces. My resolution for ‘years to come’ –
    “Don’t buy another surface till these are all painted”.
    How well do we keep our resolutions?

  • Laura on

    OMG, this IS SOOOOOOO ME! Thank you for the inspiration! Have started already but lost my steam when all the new things have arrived. Will get back to it. Thank you, lauralea



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