Monday, 2 April 2018

A New Perspective on Perfectionism

I'm a perfectionist and have been trying not to be one.  I'm going to stop that and here is why.

I wanted to paint with a faster and looser style but it's easier said than done, perhaps more so if one is a cautious person with perfectionist tendencies.  I know I am not alone because I know this is a goal of many artists and the tendency to begin to tighten up, to head too much in a direction of realism is something many artists say they are constantly fighting.  Habits take time to develop and are also hard to break which is common wisdom that applies to all areas of life.  Sometimes we can get to a breakthrough if we just spend enough time thinking about and imagining the change.  The mental shift comes before the physical shift.  At least that's how it often works for me.  Some people call this 'setting an intention' which is the new way of saying 'make a plan' or 'make a decision'.  It sounds a bit more magical and I think it comes from the 'ask the universe for what you want'  approach to life.  I haven't got a spiritual bone in my body, so as far as I am concerned, changing your thinking can change your actions.

Or at least it can begin to change them.  Change usually takes time, even if you are as prone to epiphanies as I am.  You didn't become who you are overnight and you will continue to gradually evolve.  Sometimes it's without trying to and other times it's with great effort.

My two greatest efforts of late are to minimise the unwanted in my life and to let my painting style go in the direction I wish it to despite what holds me back.  My best strategies for those are to know what the goal is and to just keep trying.  I purge and donate, clear out a cupboard and think I'm finished but later I discover I can let go of more.  I think that I am finished a painting, may even announce it on a blog post, but later suddenly want to make a change or an addition. 

A quotation I have stumbled upon and which really resonates with me is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci but it seems others have paraphrased it and have also been credited with the quote....perhaps the fate of all good ideas.

"Art is never finished, merely abandoned."  

I think this applies to many projects and efforts.  We may set something aside, but later come back and often with clarity and a good solution.  Aiming for perfection means it is never finished and since perfection doesn't exist, aiming for it isn't always a good idea....

But sometimes it is.  Sometimes that streak of perfectionism can tell you that something just isn't quite there yet and if you leave it alone for awhile you will get to a better place with it eventually.  If you are in this process then you are growing, which is much better than remaining stagnant. (I think this is a mix of metaphors-plants and water?)  For me this lately means taking my paintings where I want them to go, getting there in stages with a few false stops.  (Some people make false starts but I make false stops.) It also means making lifestyle changes that take time and don't have a predetermined result. 

Here is an abstract in progress.  I don't know when it will be finished and I will probably be wrong about that a few times.  I find that I have to step back out of my art and look at for a long time to know what I want to do with it next, to wait for it to tell me what it needs.  This isn't unusual for artists; I'm not unique.  I think life can be like this too.  Step back.  Wait a bit.  See what happens and what needs to happen.  It will make sense eventually and you will know what you need to do.  Sometimes you wait, sometimes you take a step. Sometimes you learn from your mistakes, sometimes you have a leap of progress, make a big change, undo or add.  Just keep going, rest when you need to and then get going again.  This is the best way I know how to paint and how to live life.

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