Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nobody's Perfect...

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they'd make up their minds.” (Winston Churchill)

s I watch the Olympics, my heart plummets when a skater, skier or snowboarder falls or fails at their attempts after a lifetime of diligent practice and study. All are in search of the 'perfect' time, balance, or trick. Many of us as artists search for the 'perfect' as well in each piece we create.
In reading the many art books, magazines, blogs and art sites, I find many who feel that skills in drawing correctly and precisely are the basis for great art, while others will prefer a quick sketch or no sketch at all. Some will say drawing skills are an unnecessary burden, while others, painstakingly, try to recreate with photographic accuracy. It made me think about my own philosophy and teaching art to others.

Whatever moves you to create a piece is the important thing, so go for it, but many who are new to drawing will sometimes try to copy exactly from a photograph or magazine pic for their drawings. They try their best to capture every detail with pencils and erasers in hand. This can be a good thing... to a point. For copying enjoyable things teaches us to really look at the elements of perspective, light and dark values, balance, and the design as a whole. It is a learning process in gaining skills to move forward. But some artists become dejected when their drawing falls short of their sense of perfection, or never stop copying. There are others feel who find drawing the shapes of objects more to their liking, and still others, who quick sketch just to get an idea or hint of what they have in mind in their sketchbook. Some are not concerned with any of it and just start from doodles to create a pleasing, overall design.

My feeling is that in order to draw, we must become Observers and Analyze what is around us daily. We rush through our days with little contemplation of the unique little things that surround us. If we'd just slow down and set aside an hour to observe and contemplate carefully, we can learn to set images in our "Mind's Eye" or to paper as a resource. If we Practice by drawing what we see, we can’t help but improve our skills and also veer off into new unexplored areas and really make our art our own.

A rare few of us will be "perfect" at something, but with discipline and daily practice, we can always improve on any skill. It's like anything else we've learned in life. Learning to walk, ride a bike, play an instrument, ice skating or snowboarding. None came easily without observation, discipline, drive and practice. Will our artwork be a masterpiece or a Gold Medal winner every time we put forth the the sweat and effort? Unfortunately not. You do it because you love doing it. But it's in the observing and habitual practice that our eyes open to what we've been missing. New creative ideas will come from this quiet contemplation of what surrounds us, and with these, new works.

There is no need to strive for the 'perfect' because each of us are individuals with our own unique sense of 'Seeing' the world. This, in turn, creates our unique style. It's what makes you and your art Individual amidst the many. "Seeing" is the key first step!
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." (Edgar Degas)

Quotes to ponder~
"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us." (John Dryden)
"When you work you learn something about what you are doing and you develop habits and procedures out of what you're doing." (Jasper Johns)
What is a 'daily' art habit of yours you can share?


  1. Kathryn
    Thank you for this thoughful post. I wish I had the conviction to practice my drawing. These are skill I need to develop. As a teen , I spent years (literally) copying photographs of wild life. I could at least make a tiger look like a tiger but none of my drawings had my stamp of originality on them. I never got past the copying stage. I would prefer to use only my minds eye and every now and then I get a taste of doing that when I do an abstract landscape. I have my memories and that is what I "draw" upon. Unfortunately, there is usually a lot technically wrong with these kind of works, perspecitive does not exist, depth and shadows are not there etc... But at least these works come soley from my memory and that gives me some solace. As far as a daily art habit... I try to spend 15 minutes a day organizing my studio...opperative word is try. Actual time doing art is maybe twice a week :(

  2. Hi Kathy!
    You are not alone. As a young teen, I also did much copying! It's a learning process. Before that, I bet we both were much freer in what we drew. But we went toward the realistic. Nothing wrong with trying for perfection, but we have since moved on. Look at the innocence in your portraits, and the in creating an abstract landscape, you have moved to a higher plane of direction and vision. I read a lot on art, artists, their histories, techniques, viewpoints, etc. Visual memory is important in your art and how you bring it into the piece you are working on today. Perfection is in the eye of you, but more importantly, the viewer who brings their emotions to your works.
    I think, sometimes what we feel is "technically" wrong, can be what's really right in our mind's eye, simply because it's what we are visualizing and feeling as we work. It's your intuitive spirit coming forth and driving your hands. It can be the amount of color or texture we use to the lack thereof. It can create a sense of harmony in the piece or a sense of angst. I can work on a collage for hours upon hours, then let a day pass, look at and say, "What on earth was I thinking with that color?" Then come in and change the things that I had thought were right earlier. We'll 'feel' differently and 'see' things differently day to day, just as our moods change.
    As for "organizing the studio"- this should actually be a subject for a blog alone. Many have no place and have to clean up a dining room table to feed the family, or the garage to park the car. More times than not, they get more work time accomplished than the lucky artists who have a room or a large closet. They can get caught in a trap of perpetual organizing. It can become comforting coming up with ideas while around their materials, touching them, seeing what they have. (I know this problem well, believe me.) Instead of sitting down and getting busy on a new idea, we feel the need to tidy, or we get so organized, when the new idea springs forth- we forgot where we put what, because we're so organized! But, beware, and 'be' aware that it can also be an 'avoidance' factor with some of us that is rooted in fear of failure or success. In organizing and cleaning we can create a 'painting perfect' atmosphere that surrounds us like an embrace, rather than embracing our materials and a creation at hand. If we find ourselves organizing too frequently, then we must re-evaluate why we fear the production of our art. Maybe the spirit's not moving us that week. Maybe organizing helps us think about a new piece we want to do, but maybe, sometimes it can become a fear to get started. Thanks for your post, because I think there are many who can see themselves in your words.

  3. Lots of food for thought here,not only in your post but in your response to Kathy. I've found that I tend to study a problem too much that has presented itself, rather than just get into and 'do' it. My daily habit is being in my workroom each day and keeping my hands involved with my mind. Super post!

  4. Thanks, Lynda! I sometimes think I tend to ramble on and on, but it's difficult to answer in just a few words. I, too, study and over think a piece, concerning myself on what others may think instead of what my spirit tells in what's in front of me. Working on it daily is the key! Thanks! And have a great day! {+:

  5. That is very thoughtful Kate! Made me stop and wonder about my own process as well! Both in poetry and art! Perfectionism is a downfall for us as artists, I used to get so bummed out when I'd spend hours doing something and it didn't come out right! Learned somewhere along the way to love the "process" of creating and what might come from it then or later! Kind of a snapshot in time, it is what it is at the moment! Thank you for this, you are still ever so much a teacher at heart! Pam

  6. Hi Pam! When I started this blog, I thought it would help me process what I do or fail to do, my thinking on the subject etc. and I'm seeing others who face the same hard facts daily. I suppose I will always be a teacher at heart, and as such love to help and instill some truths. We need a mantra- "No one is perfect... No one is perfect..." We have to embrace the process loving what we do. When the outcome is great we can jump for joy! I can't tell you how many pieces I've done and hated, yet people love them and want to buy! Go figure- They see something other than what we see. This is good, because it makes us realize our emotions are individual. We see black, they see a rainbow. We must just keep plugging along! (Hey, did 10 miles Wed. in the kayak- paying for it yesterday! and today!) Have a super day! Kate {+:

  7. Kate- thanks so much for coming by and for the suggestion. I ordered a couple of her books today...very inexpensive..found them on Alibris! I do appreciate the advice and needed someone to read and have for a reference. I'm so glad you are blogging. Hugs, Lynda

  8. An inspiring article. I am so glad you write these artistic pep talks as i cannot draw or paint. Others say i can, and I am getting better at it, practice :) Its nice to know that everybody feels this way. I've been linking to inspiring blogs I have come across on the carpet ride. i am going to link to you on the next one. I love that you use recycled materials as well xJ

  9. KAte

    Thank you so much for your response. We are all so connected here in this little blogosphere and it is wonderfully uplifting to share with each other feelings that no other normal person would understand (lol). I try not to over analyzed why I tidy my studio but let me tell you, if you saw it...you would understand why (again laughing really heard here). I have these huge long tables to work on, I mean you could fit 8 people comfortablly around each and how do I work, in a space for a half of person! But you know...I sort of like it like that because I can work with abandonment (reach out for a scrap of this or that and then find a way to use it). But I figure if I start to organize a bit, I can at least walk around a bit more. I have stuff everywhere! I am so glad that I discovered your work and your words. I love interacting with other artists on philosophical topics! Thank you!

  10. Well, I'm so glad that you think I'm inspiring. Sometimes I wonder, but I taught elementary school for a lot of years and found that positive thinking and action are the way to go. The negatives just bring everyone down further making it hard to get motivated.
    Lynda, Nita's books are wonderful and glad you'll dive in. Great little practices in Creative Artist, and I am glad you're enjoying the blog here.
    Jasmine, I'm glad you like the pep talks! First thing one must do is to get the word 'cannot' out of our vocabularies, and remember we CAN do anything we put our minds to and that we want to do. I firmly believe it. With discipline and practice it comes without us even being aware of it. Motivating ourselves to do it is the key that unlocks it all. I will do a simple drawing exercise on the next blog for anyone who's interested. I should do a video, hmmmm... Got the camera, just how to use it...hmmm. See, you've motivated me!
    Cathy, as for the organizing- you motivated me to finally get in the studio to clean and organize yesterday! I was in there til 2 AM this morning! What a job! But when I can't find those things I need at hand, like my scissors, I'm sunk! You inspired me. And I'm not tripping over things! Yay! Thanks to you all!


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