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I’ve been thinking recently about the idea of perfection – what it is, what we hold up to it and why.

This also has me thinking, naturally, about imperfection.

I was listing a ceramic piece on etsy.  It’s a small, unassuming pinch pot that I created to be kind of unassuming and imperfect.  There are little wrinkles where the glaze looks different.  Even a nick in the rim. gasp!  And I felt like I had to include a line in there, “Imperfections exist and are purposeful.”  I felt the need to explain away my flaws.  Why?  I’m sure there are several reasons, the biggest of which was that I am afraid that people won’t take me seriously.  I was concerned that someone would see that piece, and immediately think that it doesn’t measure up to all the perfection that is just a click away.

I was then reminded of a blog entry by Christine Kane on what she calls “imperfect camping.”  You see, so many of us wait around, planning, preparing and worrying before taking action.  I often want to be ensured success before I even begin.  It’s scary to think about putting your hard work and creativity to be judged.  But then, why not take the leap?  If things go well, that’s great.  If they don’t, why not try again?  The second time around you’ll have all of the experience from the first time PLUS you’ll have the realization that the world doesn’t come crashing down because no one wants to buy your artwork.

So, this week, aside from posting several new items in my Etsy shop (despite the fact that some of the photographs aren’t perfect), I started imperfect running.  I’ve always liked to exercise, but I’ve never been much for road running.  I’m not very fast, loud noises bother me, and I never felt “good at it.”  I rationalized myself into being a “bad runner.”  So, after moving and not having a gym to go to, I decided to give it another shot.  The rules were: 1. Take it slow, don’t stress about anything 2. Do your best.  And, would you know it!  I’m an Ok runner.  I’ve been running further and for longer than I thought that I could, and I almost even enjoy it.

Magic? nope.  A Miracle?  perhaps.  The difference is that I freed myself from my expectations and from the perceived expectations of others.  I set out to do what I needed to do and made it ok to be imperfect.  In fact, I expected it.  However, instead of taking that in a dejected, I-can’t-do-this way, I accepted my imperfection as a malleable concept that actually made way for my potential rather than squashing it.  Sure, I’m no Olympian, but at least I took action.  Christine also explores why this kind of action is the perfect one to take.

OK, What does this have to do with art?  Well, I expect not to sell much, if anything, for a while.  Some people might not even like my work.  And, that’s alright.  My self-fulfillment comes from knowing that I tried, not knowing that people like me (which, I hear, they do).

On portraits

I’ve been doing art for a long time.  That is, relative to the span of my life.  Portraits and figure drawings were always my fear, my stumbling block.  I was bad that them, and I don’t like to be bad at anything.

I couldn’t begin to number the self-portraits and similar drawings and paintings that I have done over the years.  Early on, it was the proportions that I couldn’t get right.  I learned those, and it was then the blending of colors that my brain wouldn’t seem to comprehend.  I would scrutinize my face in the mirror, figure out the size and shape of the lines, shadows, and features and paint them as I saw them: as segregated areas of color.  This never seemed to work out, and I ended up with countless blocky, inhuman portraits and considerable frustration.  It wasn’t as if I wasn’t trying; I was focused and diligent.  That was possibly the problem.  I could sketch a figure or interpret lights and shadows.  I could get the “bones” in place, but I was getting buried and distracted by the details and overlooking how they mesh into a whole.

I struggled.  For years I felt defeated, as though I was a less-worthy artist because I couldn’t master this seemingly fundamental subject.

In retrospect, I can see how my approach to art (and most anything) is reflected in my approach to portraits: I took the fundamentals of what the subject was, broke them down into segregate parts, and then reassembled.  If it had been a forest floor, it might have been thought insightful, but, because I was painting the human form – for which we all have a bias of perfection – it was unnatural.  I can also see why I am a scientist by trade.  That is essentially my job description.  What is happening (big picture)?  What is causing that to happen (small picture)?  What does that mean (bigger picture)?  With my portraits I wasn’t getting back out to the bigger picture from the small ones.

The story does have a happy ending, though.  Switching back from paintbrushes to drawing implements, I made peace with the human face under the gentle guidance of a wonderful college art professor.  I found Charcoal drawing especially forgiving and cathartic in this journey.  I learned to appraoch the figure with peace rather than apprehension and to relax and just draw what was there without disassembling each individual part.  Evidence is a piece I’ve titled “Figure Study #137.”  The number is made up, but a fair estimate, I think.  It’s a charcoal drawing of a fantastic model we had in class one day.  She was so comfortable in herself and willing to assume a wide variety of poses for us to consider.  I also loved drawing her because he shape was so genuine and soft.  Here, she’s not angry – only focused as far as I could tell.

My first item

I’m in the process now of listing my first item on etsy.com, and I am so excited.  On one hand, I can’t believe that I’m doing this, on the other, I can’t believe that it took me so long.

I think it will be a sad day when I have to pack up a piece and send it off.  Especially one I love as much as this one:

Green Coil Bowl

Green Coil Bowl

However, I know that when (hopefully) I get to send it to someone else, it will continue to be appreciated.  Sigh.

Well, I just clicked ‘finish.’  It’s officially listed – go check it out!

Hello!

Thank you for visiting my new blog.  I also intermittently post at camoandpearls, but that blog is a far bit more personal.  Here, I’ll talk about art work that I’m posting in my etsy shop.  I might share information on a process I used, or a story about what inspires me.

You can look at pictures on my flickr account: a few of the most recent items will appear to the right…

Follow me on twitter if that’s your thing @thingsofnature.

Check out the ‘Welcome’ tab for more information about me.

All the best, Rebecca

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” -Aristotle