Monday, October 20, 2008

Picture Imperfect

One of my (many) flaws is a misplaced desire for perfection. I've never dealt well with doing things 'wrong'. The trouble is, art isn't about right or wrong, it's not even about good or bad. Not as far as the artist should be concerned.
My initial impressions of my own work are always completely off. If I hate a work while I am doing it, or think it a failure, the chances are, someone else will think it very good – and vice versa. I've wasted a lot of time (and ruined a lot of work) by trying too hard to make something 'right', something perfect.
It's almost impossible to suspend my critical perspective while I work. Lately, though, I've been drawing a lot in order to get things more, well, 'wrong'. It's a method inspired by the late English film director, painter, set decorator, diarist and gardener, Derek Jarman, who argued that the pursuit of perfection stifled more good art than nurtured it. His view? You just did it, with whatever medium was to hand – and tried not to think about how something might (or might not) turn out. In his case, if he wanted to make a movie and he didn't have the budget for 35mm, he'd shoot on 16mm. If he couldn't afford 16mm he'd use Super 8, and if he couldn't afford the processing for that, he'd borrow a friends home video recorder and set-dress his living room. And if he got it all wrong, he'd do it again – or do something different.
The important thing, for Jarman, was not to fuss too much about it. Just get something done.
This new attitude appears to be working for me. I've been drawing and painting faster, looser, in pencil and black watercolour. I make ten or more pictures in less time than it would usually take for one. I notice 'flaws' in each, but resist 'correcting' them. As in people, the flaws usually turn out to be the most interesting elements.

5 comments:

Mona said...

thats weird
/ I thought you hadn't posted anything as my thumbnail still has empty places. Must be my computer is self censoring! regards t

3brainer said...

Glad to hear you aren't tearing up and throwing out the ones that your critical perfectionist mind tries to tell you are no good. I was a little worried a couple of posts back...
Wabi sabi.

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure you have to worry about hazel. she has pretty much shown she knows exactly what she's about in her career. a lot of artists would do well to heed how SHE does things.

Lauren Odell Usher said...

I believe this is a process most artists can relate to. I myself started as a photographer and began to get frustrated with other photographers who always wanted to correct the details in the photograph--they always refused to talk about the idea behind the work, or what kind of tone or feeling it projected. It got boring really fast for me, so I turned to printmaking, something I had absolutely no idea how to do. I started from scratch and haven't looked back since. I think everyone might have "a little dwarf on their shoulder" (as a friend of mine has said). You just have to put forth the effort to flick it off you once in a while and dive in deep. The new image on this post is very strong, by the way. Feels more personal for some reason.

Bobby Shen said...

Sometimes you can find a different approach by cutting out your subjective urges completely. Your body has made art a million times, trust your muscle memory and just see where it goes. Let go of expectations and see what comes from it. Afterwards you might chuck it or like it. Either way, sometimes its good to experiment without the obsessive compulsive regret/doubt that comes with true critique. It could suppress you if the balance between over conscious and trust is messed up.