Are you picking at every little thing in your art? Are you constantly doubting yourself and finding criticism at every stroke?
Do you ask yourself these questions…
- How much time should I practice until I get good enough?
- When will I get good enough to use good art supplies?
- Why is everything I do never look finished?
- Why do I keep making mistakes in my drawing?
First and foremost you MUST realize creating art is a journey. It is a process you should be enjoying. Constructive criticism is fine. It actually is great whether you provide it for yourself or someone else gives you nurturing and helpful feedback. If you are trashing your work, your skills and overall being negative….. you need to STOP right away. Beating yourself up is never going to get you to move forward. Creating a “perfect” work of art is NEVER going to happen. Some pieces may be more successful and some may even be dismal failures. This is OKAY. You should be striving for growth, not perfection. You should be finding JOY not unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Here is a way you quiet the inner perfectionist.
- Correct any drawing errors you can see before you commit to the final composition. It is almost impossible to fix a mistake once you have it fully rendered.
- Make sure all your lines make sense. Look at your composition to see if there are any lines that are going “nowhere” or look awkward. Use tracing paper to work out and refine your drawings.
- Transfer the drawing onto good paper and then redraw it. YES…. redraw the drawing. Make sure all the lines flow. There is grace and beauty in nature, make sure it makes it way onto your paper.
- Test colors before you commit to the paper. Try out a few different ways of creating form. Extend the range of color by working in analogous, complimentary, triad combinations.
Preplanning can greatly help how you view your final outcome. Think of it again like writing. Start with a concept, jot down notes, create a story line, do some research, do some more research, continue to write the story, edit the story and so on. This can be directly interpreted into a concept for a painting: sketch, research, draw, refine, research some more, add and subtract elements, experiment with color and technique etc.
Once you feel confident in your composition you may struggle along the way with technique. Learn to be accepting of where you are in the journey. How many paintings did Picasso paint during his career? How many styles did he explore? How many techniques did he try out? How often did he fail?
A final evaluation: When can you say a painting is “DONE”?
Do you get to the point in a painting where you feel like it has stopped progressing. Are you spending time on it and no matter what you do to it, it either looks the same as it did 10 minutes ago or there is something new that is bugging you…but it still isn’t looking right. So what would be the sane thing for you to do…… Fester over it, make a bigger mess? Spend countless more time being dissatisfied and upset? Heck NO!
- Put it aside and look at it the next day with fresh eyes…usually from across the room.
- This is where the “AHA!” moment will occur. If there is something that is screaming, “FIX ME!” You should be able to see it immediately and be able to take action to remedy the problem.
- If you look at it and can’t figure it out….. Stick a fork in it….. YOU ARE DONE!
- Accept that this is where you are at. You may not be completely satisfied with the painting but look for the good in it.
- Realize there are so many other paintings to be challenged by and be eager to keep trying and exploring.
- At this point sign your work. Yes, put your signature on it. This makes it final.
- Once it is signed, make a vow… NEVER to TOUCH it AGAIN.
- Keep moving forward. The time you spend fussing could be used in producing more and better work.
- Keep some of your least favorite paintings so you can measure your progress. It becomes satisfying to see the progress you make and will keep you motivated to continue on.
Want to learn more about researching and collecting inspiration for your art? I can think of just the place. Costa Rica! Delve into Drawing the Beauty of Nature and feed your artistic soul….
ps…. leave your inner perfectionist home!
Prefer to draw at home in your studio? Online classes start in September 18, 2019
Thank you so much for this blog. It is so helpful to see the concepts organized and a checklist given as a guide to problem solve when I run into trouble spots. I was much encouraged by seeing your birds of paradise 😉 thanks again!
Thanks Carol for leaving a comment. I recently decided that I wanted to start blogging on a regular basis. I really want to help artists create challenges for themselves so they can grow and break down the obstacles that stop them. Every time I look at the first Bird of Paradise I smile…… When I did it I knew nothing about what I was doing and I actually really liked it…. no harsh criticism from my inner perfectionist. When I see it, it reminds me of the joy I experienced painting it. It was SOOOOO much FUN and I want to instill that in my own practice as well as others. Happy Painting! ~Mindy
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!
Hi Paula, So glad you stopped by and read my blog post. I am not sure that I have wisdom…..but I do know that it is important to quiet the inner perfectionist. Hope you are creating lots of satisfying art in your studio!
Thank you so much for your inspiring message. It is so good to look at one’s early work and make comparisons. I know I have a long way to go, but I can see that I have made some progress along the way. I am a perfectionist who had a father who was one of those who said “what happened to the other two points?” if I got a 98 on a test. I guess I learned from that and often that feeling makes it hard for me to draw or even to get started. I know I still won’t get the “two points” or in my case a lot more than that. I love your checklist. I love the idea that “art is a journey.” I feel lucky that part of my journey has included you and all the inspiring teaching that you do. Thanks again!
Hi Trudy! I totally understand about childhood messages. My dad was an English teacher and he constantly corrected everything that came out of my mouth. It had to be grammatically correct and he was also literal. I remember telling him I was freezing…… He replied, ” You are NOT 32 degrees fahrenheit!” I found that over the years I look at my composition for my paintings very much like a composition for writing. I make sure everything “reads” well in my drawing as it will be the foundation before I put color to paper. My dad also discouraged me from being an artist and told me…..” You will never be Georgia O’Keefe”. I actually knew that…. always wanted to be Mindy Lighthipe! We all have hurdles and obstacles but I think it is important to value our journey and support others. So happy to be connected with you. Happy creating! Mindy
That is a heart warming blog, thank you so much Mindy, lots of good advice. Fantastic drawing too!
Thanks Anita for leaving a comment. I am enjoying writing blogposts and it is heart warming to know they are being read and appreciated. Cheers and happy creativity! ~ Mindy
Mindy, you were my first teacher — years go at NYBG. I haven’t seen you for a long time, but this blog hit my inbox at just the right moment. “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Hi Cathy! A blast from the past!! It is so wonderful to reconnect with you. I am actually headed up to NYBG next week to teach a 3 day class on drawing and painting insects. I am glad you are fighting off the “evil” perfectionist! Go create some awesome art!