When most people think of art, they think of something static and unchanging. Films play moving images with sound, and music fills the air with melody, but traditional forms of art are still and lifeless: a statue, an oil painting, a straw basket. If properly preserved, a piece of art can remain the same for decades or even centuries. You can view a painting at the art museum as a child, then go back and view the same painting as an adult--and it's still exactly the same. For these reasons and more, people tend to view art as something already stopped, something at a standstill. The process is unimportant; it is simply a means to an end.
But this is not true.
And in today's world, even artists have started to believe this myth. They pay little attention to the creative process, instead rushing through as quickly as possible so they can sell the piece and move on to the next one. The process is a chore, while the finished piece is the reward. With deadlines looming ahead, there's no room for spontaneity, creativity, or last-minute changes. The artist is completely focused on the vision in her head, and won't allow anything to get in her way--not even a burst of imagination.
As artists, it's time to break out of that old mindset and allow our art to change and grow to its full potential. The process matters most of all, for that is where art comes alive.
We sketch out our rapidly changing vision, start applying paint to the canvas, make changes and alterations as the brush guides us, and sometimes end up with a completely different piece altogether. Art is so fluid and spontaneous that sometimes even we can't believe what we've created!
When you find yourself making "finishing touches" indefinitely, without ever actually finishing, it's usually due to some dissatisfaction with the finished work. Stop torturing yourself; if you focus on the act of creating rather than the act of finishing, more often than not you'll know exactly when you're done, and it will usually surprise you because you weren't paying attention to the finish line.
It's important to set goals and work toward deadlines, but if you see the creative process as merely a means to an end, you'll sap all the joy out of your work. Don't be afraid to play around and experiment. Work intuitively and let the canvas reflect your inner vision. The best contemporary painters are constantly evolving and experimenting, trying to push their work to the next level. If you want to create, be a creator--not someone who throws something together in a race to the finish.