Even as I write this, I over-think to myself, "aren't I just sharing my worry about worrying over worrying... blah blah blah blah." Well now you've had a tiny peek inside my head and thats enough for the general public, because it can be quite toxic. I attempt to keep a harness on this gremlin. I don't appreciate this characteristic about myself but it is part of me and who I am, which is actually a person I have come to like.
If I were easier, I wouldn't think about things like this. But, I like that this makes me very particular about my art and at the same time, it can turn on me and cause me to doubt my ability. It's the two sides of Lake Washington when driving on the floating bridge, one side calm and shiny, the other side rough and choppy. I know that I can produce beautiful artwork and yet, I am such a perfectionist about it that it can be a real challenge to just say "its finished. Step away from the canvas."
In my beginning painting class, I was recreating magnified marbles when I got too far ahead of myself and painted in some of the foreground before the background was settled. I couldn't let it go and ended up painting over it to redraw the light and reflections within the marbles. I was much more at peace with the decision to redo it than I would ever have been to carry on to the end, ignoring the flaws that would have bedeviled me until I destroyed the painting just to put my mind at ease.
This last Winter Quarter in intermediate painting, as a class assignment, I began a triptych of our family church in Iowa. A landscape was a subject I hadn't attempted to this point. So, I blocked in the areas where the trees, church and family members would be painted in but the placement of the church was awkward. The composition refused to flow with comfort. I washed it away and painted it back in three separate times. That darn church refused to cooperate and time was compressing quickly towards the deadline and critique.
Frustrated, I brought the three canvases home and painted over them... goodbye winter trees, goodbye quaint little church, goodbye beloved relatives. Instead of the old fashioned sepia toned painting I envisioned, I brushed blue acrylic over the images and the canvases took on the new life of a tattooed woman, a messy bouquet and a room that looks a bit like a Piet Mondrian Painting. These new and interesting characters emerged from the troubled canvases and saved my grade.
The worrying perfectionist who insisted on changing subjects at the last possible moment is the driving force that makes my art better. It is also the force that contributes to my insomnia and my non-sensical anxiety. This Negative Nellie inside my head is also responsible for projects started but never finished. After all, if it isn't finished, it can hardly fail.
That debilitating "fear of failure," is a real creativity killer and it swings around the coattails of my perfectionism, sometimes succeeding in it's purpose of knocking over my confidence and making me doubt. Which then forces a start to stop. I have a garage full of bins that are loaded with unfinished projects. Even as I sit here writing this, I have two portraits that have given me pause, eight sewing projects that got hijacked for one reason or another and ten half-written novels that were promising, yet abandoned... and as a result of the distant fear, remain unfinished.
I don't usually spend much time worrying about the projects that haven't made it to the end. They don't matter all that much in the day to day workings of my mind. What matters are the completed pieces. These projects are my favorites. I can gaze upon them and see a wonderfully fullfilled work regardless of all the flaws I should have fixed but didn't because I finally told myself to step away.
These are the images I lay awake at night dreaming about before I fall asleep.
If everything was easier, if I was easier, I wouldn't care so much. I would be able to do my job and go home, not taking my emotional load with me. I could turn in work that was good enough and forget the part that, to my eye is incongruent, but to everyone else is fine. I would never have to paint over an image because there was something out of place, some little thing that would not leave me in peace. I could create and walk away without another quarter of my mental energy given over to the details.
Well, that's not me. A few years ago, after I apologized for an awkward moment at work, my boss said "don't worry about it. We are who we are." I loved that comment. It doesn't mean that a statement like that gives me permission to ditch my efforts at being a better person, but it does speak to me in that I am okay. I will always worry and stress over my work, life, crimes against children, calderas, world peace, destructive meteors, aliens, etc. etc. etc....
But this year, my perfectionism landed my art in the Pierce College Student Art Show. The poor little lost church and trees under The Blue Room Triptych can share some of that glory because that piece also won the purchase award and is now in the permanent art collection of Pierce College. Not too shabby for having such a rough start.
I made it clear that I worry about a lot of nothing and in other areas of my life I don't always like it. But when it comes to art, it works for me.
|The Blue Room Triptych © 2011 by Darcy Cline|