I read a quote the other day by Kim Collins: ‘Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection’.
As a self-confessed left brain creative, I admit that ‘perfection’ is something always on my mind. I watch endless hours of youtube art channels by amazing artists who have, in my opinion anyway, attained that hallowed place where perfection meets art. I watch how they effortlessly seem to simply put pencil to paper and create pieces of art imitating life in a way I have rarely seen. I analyse each moment, the way they hold the pencils, the direction they draw in, the colours they use. On my screen the dogs and horses of the world come to life, the big cats seem ready to pounce and the birds ready to fly away.
With each drawing I focus on something that I want to be better in, whether it be a more realistic anatomically correct drawing, or maybe better contrast and shading, or simply using colour in a smarter way. I spend eons staring at the reference image (yes – I work from reference images!) trying to recreate it. I want it to be perfect, but I never seem to actually get to perfect. Looking at the finished piece I concentrate on the flaws and when someone asks me to try a human face or an eagle I cringe away, too afraid that I won’t do it justice.
Right there perfectionism becomes my enemy. When wanting to attain a level of perfection to such a degree that you shy away from even trying, perfectionism is no longer your friend. And yes – guilty as charged!!
Then a funny thing happened. Andre – the amazing human behind artsavingsclub.co.za, sent me a few tester pencils to review. Included were two pastel pencils. I have been a little hesitant to try pastel pencils as I know they can be messy, but I tried them and was immediately in love with the rich pigment. Two pencils and I suddenly wanted more! My mom, who has been slowly acquiring her own selection of pencils had purchased a set that proved difficult to colour with for the same reason – messy. So, I swopped two sets of colouring pencils that I don’t use anymore for her pastel pencils, ordered a couple of my favourites from the other brand, patiently waited for the Pastelmat and there I was, ready to do it. But of course, wanting to be perfect, I was afraid to do something big. I decided on a Lilac-breasted Roller – smallish, bright and hey, I’ve done one before right? So how hard could it be?
It ended up being more fun than I ever anticipated and I even used some of my other coloured pencils in between and it became a lovely experiment with no intention of being perfect. I had no expectation and could enjoy the process of creating free from the burden of chasing perfection.
As I mentioned I had done a Lilac-Breasted Roller before, and that is where the biggest aha-moment happened. I could directly compare the images and even I am able to admit the difference between the version I did late in 2016 and this one is big. It might not be perfect, but there is a definite improvement and isn’t that what the pursuit of perfection is actually about?
So here I am making a midweek May 30th resolution – I am unfriending Perfect. I am letting it go and focusing on the fun, and hopefully in another year-and-a-half I can draw another Lilac-Breasted Roller.
Would you like to see the difference? I am cringing at the prospect of sharing this, but here goes. Practice might not make perfect, but it does fuel improvement!
As a sidenote to this – notice the funny-looking white stuff on the 2016 image? That is because I wasn’t using artist-quality archival mediums as I am now, but at that point I was just starting my drawing journey. That however is a blogpost all on its own!
Now go out and create something that scares you silly!