Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Struggling with Perfectionism and my latest work

Perfectionism can kill art.  It killed one of my pieces I started last week.  I had a beautiful drawing, but then I started painting.  I was trying some techniques that I saw another artist do.  I was trying to be that artist I suppose, and got aggravated that I wasn't...and ruined the piece.  I realize that I don't need to be another artist, but sometimes perfectionism, or the ego, creeps in...and kills art.
So I started on another one.  This time I found the perfect face somewhere on the Internet.  She is my perfect model, my perfect symbol of beauty.  I wanted to draw her and it had to be exactly like her.  Well I started drawing, and lil' miss perfectionist came right back in.  "It doesn't look like her", "You can't get the lips right", "that left eye isn't right".  I erased and erased, and finally decided that I had a pretty close representation, even though it was not perfect.  Here is the beginning drawing:


The lips were driving me batty at this stage....and that left eye still.  But I started to slap on some paint.  I am experimenting with a more neutral background than my norm.  Here she is with the first bit of paint:


Starting to come to life, but I was still very displeased.  She doesn't look enough like my model.  I was fretting a lot about the lips at this point.  Now I am looking at them here and suddenly they look great to me.  I changed them a bit though, and here is where she is now (I think I might try to take the lips back to where they were above though).:


Sorry the pic is a little grainy, it was taken last night.  Anyway, this little gal is a Leanan Sidhe.  These are faerie women that are believed to attach themselves to artists.  Irish folklore says they are beautiful dark muses that both provide inspiration and suck the life from their host.  Many artists are driven mad and die young because of their relationship with a Leanan Sidhe. 
I think this is in a way a metaphor for the artistic inspiration itself.  It comes in and you fall in love with it like it is a beautiful lover.  But often, the ego mind sets in and you think the artistic inspiration is all you and from you, or your mind.  Eventually the inspiration wanes, and the artist can be driven mad when they can no longer find it anymore.
Then there is the perfectionism.  Driven by your mind, or ego, to create the perfect work of art, you can drive yourself mad.  I am laughing at myself here.  This little Leanan Sidhe is truly doing her job on me.  But I am starting to get that you can create your idea of perfect beauty, and it doesn't have to be perfect.  Although, if you are doing it in a state of joy instead of anxiety....it will in no way be imperfect.
I was inspired to write about artistic perfectionism after my gifted artist friend Steph Granshaw posted a work of Audrey Kawasaki's today on her Facebook page.  Audrey of course is a very gifted artist and fairly famous.  Her work always seems like sheer perfection, but the first thing I noticed about this work was that the right eye was way too far over to the right.  Now maybe most people that do not constantly paint faces wouldn't notice this.  But I sit and stared at it and thought about how much it would have drove me crazy and that I would have had to fix it.  But Audrey left it, and it is still perfect.  Here is the painting, go have a look and marvel at her other work if you haven't before.
Hope you are all walking the path of non-perfectionism today........




12 comments:

The Goddess said...

Oh my gosh I am so with you on this! For me, you did hit the nail on the head for artists. I really love that analogy and hope you don't mind that I use it to remind myself of why I may feel crazy.

Way to push through though! I often stop and turn the painting around and don't look at it for about a week to get passed such things.

Love the colors!

MoonSpiral said...

Hey Amber! I knew some of my arteest friends would understand :) Use the analogy as much as needed. I was hoping it would help others a little too!

Patricia Ariel said...

i am a totally perfectionist artist, but i go after my own standard of perfection, which is actually more conceptual than a matter of representation of form. it drives me crazy that i cannot make materialize the things i see in my imagination with 100% of accuracy, but this is a classic artist's dilemma, I guess. for 10 paintings i start, only 1 or 2 come to completion. my question for you: why your leanan sidhe had to look exacly like your model? i think that the coolest thing of being an artist is exactly the freedom to reinvent the world, or make our own. that's what Audrey Kawasaki (love) and many others do. it doesn't have to follow rules, it just have to be yours, authentic. i think it is perfectly okay to observe and emulate other artist's techniques in order to find the identity we are aiming to build, but as you quickly concluded, it will never be the same because we are not that artist. it is valid as an exercise though. by the way, i think your leanan sidhe is gorgeous and there's something in her that seems to opening a new path in your art. you just keep getting better and better, Tammy.

MoonSpiral said...

Thankyou Patty! You know, I usually just use models for reference of head positioning, etc, and then I create their facial features. That is what I love too, being able to create something new. But, I also have this ideal face in my mind. I find myself looking for it a lot when I go searching for models...and I finally found it. This model is exactly what I see in my head, and it really excited me. She is like my Jane Morris. (and saying that I just realized that Rosetti definately made Jane look different than she appeared in real life). But I also realize there is this dance I play with all my girls...who I want them to be and who they want to be. The more I step out of the way, usually the better the painting is :)
That would drive me nuts throwing that many away. I guess I throw about 1 every 6 or 7 paintings out, and I always mourn about it for days...lol.
Oh, and experimentation is definately great. I am always learning from other artists,and constantly inspired....but there is this line that I can cross where I try too hard to be like them, and therefore think too much. It is always the mind that gets in the way of the flow of the creativity.

Michael Scholl said...

this is, by far, your best work...in my opinion! I just love it and I love seeing your progress!!!

MoonSpiral said...

Awwww shucks Mike, thankyou. You are too nice :)

plantie_bee said...

a truly fantastic sketch, painting and a good story to go with it. this will not doubt be a stunner...
thank you for sharing your thoughts about the nagging perfectionism that comes with being an artist. and how it can lead to unfinished canvases O_o *the worst kind* but its true, no matter what nothing is perfect and the most beautiful things in life and such because of their quirks and flaws.
hope to see more of your work soon ^^

NatashaMay said...

She is amazing! And I know it can be totaly frustrating to have everything perfect. But she really is perfect and worth the "pain". :)

MoonSpiral said...

Thankyou NatashaMay and Plantie_bee! Hohum, it is true....imperfect is often more beautiful, and yet taking the time to get it to your idea of perfect is worth the effort too.

Kiki aka Victoria said...

Wow..Beautiful and stunning work as always! she is gorgeous and magical... and such a wonderfully written post!Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom! thanks for the links of the artists I shall check them out!I think one should try to really 'see' their art without their eyes..and truly feel it instead. Your art is powerful and so beautiful ..you are a very talented artist! I don't connect with the idea of perfection at all..I connect more with 'feeling'..for me art can look perfect but if you cannot feel anything from it..then it is just a perfect image ...it must carry something more than what we see...and invoke something within !

I love your work..you are over the top with talent..enjoy your gifts the way they come through!!
Another beautiful post...Love-Love your work!!
Victoria

MoonSpiral said...

Thankyou so much Victoria. You are a kind soul. Your creative process amazes me. You really do seem to create in a state of complete bliss. I am working on that ;) I actually go for emotion and feeling in my work too, rather than structural perfection....but my mind buts in with it's opinions of how I should be achieving that sometimes. Thankyou for your supportive words, and please know you are a great inspiration to me!

Hunter Embers said...

I love this painting, I don't know if it's who you used as a model or not but the first time I saw it I was struck by how much she looks like Emmanuelle Voger. I didn't know it at the time but she actually plays a Leanan Sidhe on the show Lost Girl, so whether or that was on purpose or totally coincidental its awesome and you're painting is beautiful. I just screwed up a painting this week with my perfectionism so I know exactly what you struggle with.

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