Sunday, May 30, 2010

On art and perfectionism

Last year, Hillary picked up her pencil and paper again to start sketching out ideas for jewelry. Shortly thereafter, she started picking it up just to draw for the joy of drawing, and she wanted to share some thoughts on this with you:

Recently, I started drawing again, and the original goal was to be good. I worked meticulously to get things perfect and, of course, they never come out that way because no one's perfect, and I haven't drawn much of anything since I was 13. However, the more I worked, the more interesting and more recognizable things became. One day I was working on a face grunting and groaning because I couldn't get it to look quite right. Hearing the grumbling next to him, my husband looked at it and said "her eyes are too far apart" and I immediately put down the drawing pad and refused to pick it back up. He looked confused and said "you were frustrated with it, so I was trying to help." I said, almost crying, "you criticized the ONLY thing I was okay with."

You see I have a problem, I am a perfectionist. I am a Rank 1 supreme insane perfectionist with standards for my own work that no one could ever meet. While this is a good thing in that it means that I am always striving to be better, it can also be a very bad thing. When it is 3 in the morning and I refuse to go to bed because a necklace won't turn out the way I want it to, or I am in tears in my office at work because I missed something minor, or I put a huge X through a sketch that I have been working on for the last half hour because it isn't quite right, the perfectionism becomes destructive and harmful.

With sketching, I have learned to try to accept my imperfections for a few reasons. First, drawing and other forms of art are subjective--imperfections can actually give character to a piece or become a signature stylization. Second, I draw for fun and relaxation, not to become famous, make a living or even have sketches shown to anyone outside of my immediate family. Sketching is an outlet for me: it's meditative, it's calming if I let it be, it's creative, and it's a way to express my intense feelings and crazy ideas like no other. Sure, jewelry and dance are lovely, but there are certain things that are just easier to express through drawing.

After I drew whatever odd thing came to mind a few times, I started getting a standard reaction from my husband. Now instead of being good, my new goal is to get that same reaction from my husband every time: "that's disturbing." The new goal is fairly easy and makes the drawing almost secondary. My skills only have to be good enough to convey an idea that bothers my husband. I know it's an odd goal, but it has removed stress from my drawing time almost completely.

Sure, it's still frustrating when I don't have the skills to quite do what I want, but I know they will come in time and I can work on a specific idea later when they do. For right now, all I have to do is barely eek the idea out and I get the reward I'm looking for. Why "that's disturbing" and not "that's interesting" or "that's pretty" or "that's perfect"? Because, a dog doing tricks can be interesting, a thousand flowers in a thousand vases can be pretty, and a pebble can be perfect, but only a person with swirls for eyes, a tiefling under a christmas tree and a face with cracks through it--my ideas--can be disturbing. It's lovely: through silliness and self-expression, I have learned to start embracing who I am, imperfect, offbeat, and a little disturbing.

Oh, and that face with the eyes that were too far apart? I picked her back up a few weeks later and am proud to say that she is definitely disturbing.