More On Perfectionism and Perseverance
"Ansel Adams, never one to mistake precision for perfection, often recalled the old adage that 'the perfect is the enemy of the good', his point being that if he waited for everything in the scene to be exactly right, he'd probably never make a photograph.
Adams was right: to require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do--away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes. Believing that artwork should be perfect, you gradually become convinced that you cannot make such work. (You are correct.) Sooner or later, since you cannot do what you are trying to do, you quit. And in one of those perverse little ironies of life, only the pattern itself achieves perfection--a perfect death spiral: you misdirect your work; you stall; you quit."
Ok. This is good stuff, but I'll tell you the real reason I'm so frantically inhaling this book, maniacally underlining every other paragraph like a madwoman on an out of control highlighter binge. It's because I'm taking this drawing class on Thursday nights, and it's not going well. I have been sorely tempted to quit.
I don't know what the hell was wrong with me last week, but my drawings just wouldn't come together. I couldn't relax into the proper mind zone to draw, and I felt like something was somehow off with my vision. My depth perception was distorted, and my proportions were absurdly out of whack. I just couldn't seem to do anything right.
It's a really nice little class, down at the nearby college. The people are friendly, I like the teacher (except when he stands directly behind me and watches me draw, which causes me to go straight into freeze mode). The model was wonderful: a graceful, voluptuous young art student who actually took off her clothes, and who knew how to pose. Everything was great, except for me: I totally sucked.
And yeah, I got discouraged. I got depressed. I wanted to quit. But don't worry, I'm not going to quit. I really want to take this class, and I want to enjoy myself. And thanks to this encouraging little book, I'm going back tomorrow night and try again.
The truth is, though, it's not really just about this drawing class. I've been feeling like such a failure in about nine million ways lately. I mean, I failed to be a healthy person; I failed to be a prosperous or even solvent person; I failed to be a person in love. Understandably, my sense of self-worth has kind of taken a hit. Come on: wouldn't yours? As a result, every new little failure seems to take a bigger bite out of me than it normally would have, back...you know, before. I've been feeling so weary and discouraged, and since quitting the Big Things isn't really an option, I sort of feel like quitting the things I can quit, right and left. Like, just fuck it all! Hell yeah, I have days like that. Wouldn't you?
I feel like what I really really need right now is to be spectacularly and indisputably good at something. And silly me, I thought maybe a little figure drawing class down at the local college might be a safe bet. But as usual, the frickin Universe doesn't see things my way. The frickin Universe has decided that what I really need right now is to fail and fuck up even more! Perhaps this is the frickin Universe's idea of a lesson in humility, or a test of perseverance, or a hilarious joke. Who the hell knows. Whatever, I'm telling you: it's a frickin pain in the ass.
Take tonight in dog training class, for example. The standard poodles pranced around doing perfect tricks like professional acrobats. The Labs followed commands with goofy enthusiasm. And the damn border collie (there's always one in every class) sat on the front row with its calculator doing everybody's taxes. But my dog? My big dunce wouldn't do a single goddamn thing we'd worked on all week. Instead, he barked nonstop at the gerbils; he charged at the parakeet cage, knocking over three chairs and a table in the process; he picked a fight with a Newfie puppy that's already bigger than my car; he chased a Weimaraner up and down the cat food aisle; and as if all that wasn't enough, he had diarrhea right in the middle of the ring. I mean, sheesh. Can't I ever get a break?
Ah well. I'm hoping that tomorrow's drawing class won't be quite as humiliating as last week's. And that if I can't be good at anything else, at least maybe I can be good at steadily plodding ever onward, without quitting, without giving up.
7 minute pose
10 minute pose
"The seed for your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece." --Bayles & Orland