I felt this topic was worth a post as it keeps cropping up in my classes. Also see my post 5 Thoughts Stopping You from Creating Art which is along the same lines.
This topic is very close to my heart as I suffered from these limited thoughts throughout my art studies. What I learnt from teaching others is that perfectionism is paralysis in art.
The act of creating art requires us to be in the flow and ‘moving’ to get the creative thoughts or ‘juices’ going. Perfectionism stops us in our tracks and stops this natural flow of creating. Some of the greatest artists did not obsess over each piece of art, they kept going and creating and were driven by the passion of the next creation.
I’m not saying it is wrong to have high standards but this can be an excuse to justify our perfectionism. Much of the problem comes from comparisons with others work, this is a classic stumbling block for many of my learners. We must all find our unique voices in art, this is how we excel.
Signs Perfectionism is Holding You Back in Art
- Going over bits, never finishing
- Not starting until you have the exact paper, paint, lighting
- Doing more research than needed
- Refusing to share your work with anyone until it is ‘just right’
- Not enjoying the process of creating
- Not producing much work
- Obsessing over ‘errors’ or one small part of a piece
- Revisiting old work to ‘make it better’
- Tearing up work
I have been guilty of all of the above, but I hope you will learn that if this is you it is time to let go. Perfectionism tends to steal the enjoyment of the process and this is a real shame and in some cases stops us completely.
For me much of the issue came from art being connected to grades while studying, which I took as ‘value’ for my work being any good or not. It also brought a bit of pressure to creating art as grades rested on it. The best work comes from creating for no outcome (money, grades, to impress others etc.) just for the sheer enjoyment of creating.
We have to try and separate others ideas of what is good and bad and not allow others to ‘value’ our work. When it comes to perfectionism we are usually our own worst critics, the voice in our heads saying ‘that is rubbish, you might as well give up!’.
You have probably heard that some of the great masters never sold any work while they were alive. Not everyone will like your work, even you but it is when this stops us creating that it becomes a problem.