Parallels between Art-Making and Making a Life.
Though I didn't dive head first into the world of art-making until the last few years, I have tentatively dipped my baby toe into the field most of my life. Somewhere along the way, I was struck with an epiphany-- it dawned on me how many parallels exist between art and life. Doing art well, and doing life well, are indeed related in many unexpected ways. Using this awareness, I began to apply the things I learned while creating art to my life as a whole. I've personally found this awareness to be a valuable change agent and motivator in my life both in and out of the studio.
So I thought I'd write a series of blog posts examining the parallels, in the hope that you will be inspired as well. So on a sunny & vibrant Tuesday afternoon, I will begin with the first few key lessons I learned in the art room.
1. IT'S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT!
This is a hard lesson for many, and often particularly hard for artists. We imagine a concept or a finished product in our minds, then often find the execution to be more difficult. It irks us. It discourages us. And if we let it, it can break us. However, if we keep on creating, we inevitably find that it's in the imperfections that the beauty often resides... that no creation can ever be deemed 'perfect' because it was created with human hands. A painter may look at a picture of a glorious sunset, and become frustrated that he can't make his work look like the picture; but really, it shouldn't. Indeed, if someone wanted a sunset on their wall that was perfect, they could blow up the photo--that would be far easier! (Though even a photo is a poor copy of the original sunset!) In my opinion though, in each visible brush stroke and each imperfectly-mixed shade lies a beauty that goes beyond perfection.
The other issue is that no one often knows what 'perfect' is anyway. How can you reach an ideal when you don't understand what it is or who defines it?
Also, if you let your striving for perfection derail your attempts, you will stop creating. And isn't that a tragic shame! No, you will never reach perfection; but, if you stop trying, then you CERTAINLY won't get better at your craft! They say it takes 10,000 hours at a craft to become a master. Don't give up because your pieces aren't 'perfect' after only a few tries! As a coach and art teacher, this saddens me the most. I have found us North Americans to be so very hard on ourselves! We take a class, and get so caught up in not being able to create the image we are trying to create, that we end up throwing our hands up and saying, "I can't do this" or "I suck at art". No! We don't! We just haven't practiced the skill sets required to master art enough yet. So please, don't give up just because you tried a few times and the result wasn't perfect... I beg you!
The ability to rest in the middle of chaos and imperfection, and enjoy the ride is a REALLY valuable mindset in life as well as in the creative process. It's how we learned to walk, to talk, to ride a bike, to cook a meal... And the same tendency to dissolve into a puddle of frustration when things aren't perfect can derail your life too, sapping your confidence and undermining your self esteem.
If you struggle with this in life, I urge you to try taking up a new hobby. Take a class, follow some tutorials online and learn to stick with it until you see that you are making good progress. Learn 'stick-to-it-iveness'... then apply that to other areas of life. Learn to rest in imperfection long enough to arrive at competence. Not perfection... competence.
2. DON'T GIVE UP!
I wanted to include this one next because it goes along so well with our first point. As a race, we humans often are quick to give up on something when the going gets tough. And at the risk of offending, I have noticed this tendency in some millennials. I've literally heard young women say, "If I can't do it pretty well the first time I try, I can't try again." The problem is that success in life entails developing SKILLS. It's great to have an innate talent or aptitude, but that alone will not get you anywhere.
Have you ever noticed that not all musicians/singers on the radio seem all that talented? Yet they found some success. That is probably because of a few lucky breaks AND the fact that they were tenacious and never gave up no matter what obstacles they faced. I think it's a hard and fast rule of life; if you keep trying and don't give up, you are far more likely to succeed. And even if a determined person wasn't that talented to start with, their talent will increase because they are using what little talent they have been given. I've seen the reverse as well, sadly. People that have more talent in their pinky finger than most of us could ever hope to have, but do not have the stick-ability or determination it takes to turn that talent into a developed skill set that will lead to success. They let inner obstacles like frustration, fear or low self esteem stop them... or they let outer obstacles like situational road blocks, rejection emails or finances stop them. Either way, they are stopped in their tracks.
If this is something you struggle with, I urge you to take up an art-form and persist at it until you see the fruit of a skill well-developed. Do whatever it takes to resist the urge to give up, and keep going. Then when you succeed, you will know the immense joy of being an overcomer! It that will help you overcome in other areas of your life as well!
Please sound off in the comments, and let me know about lessons you have learned in life or in art! And stay tuned for the next blog on this topic in June... and keep pouring your art out!!