Saturday, November 13, 2010

When a perfectionist paints ...

Now that I'm 102 years old I'm finally figuring out some of my more frustrating quirks.

There is a collection of canvases that remain only half-way painted ... that grows in size year after year.  Partial images, random flights of whimsy long ago abandoned when I promptly fell out of love with an idea I'd formerly been so attached to and smitten with.  They taunt me from the corner but I never toss them.  I'm not sure why ... as a dear friend once advised me that holding on to such things was really just a reminder of perceived failure.  So much better to clean house and move on.

I think I have nursed hope that I might "get back together" with a few of them.  There are parts and pieces that still resonate with me.  Fragments of concepts I'd love to resurrect and revive.  Just this past year I finally completed a piece that had been particularly cruel with it's taunts over the years.  For over 5 years it had lived in the corner--a partially rendered idea that I still enjoyed, but despaired over the chosen execution.  If I had tossed it, then I never would have seen it rise like Lazarus when I finally felt the drive to make it complete.  It happened in stages.  A year ago I completely painted over and began again ... but didn't finish it.  It took a year to see it to fruition.  Now it's like this personal symbol of joy to me because it restores my hope that not all lost causes remain truly lost.

But back to what I'm recognizing about myself.  I'm a perfectionist (which I already knew).  I'm impulsive (which I already knew).  What I didn't realize was how these two qualities can cause a bottleneck to my creative flow.

I don't do well with planning things out.  I don't typically sketch or layout a concept.  I just dive in.  And sometimes it works out beautifully ... while at others I get halfway in only to suddenly see that the composition lacks and I regret the placement of a body, hand or entire piece.  This is how my work ends up in purgatory.  My perfectionist self can't stand to complete something that isn't without flaw.  My impulsive self stands sheepish in the corner wishing it was a little better with strategy.

This is why I'm finally keeping a journal again after years of going without.  I think it's the only way the impulsive and the perfectionist within can live in harmony.  I am trying to view it as an exercise ... rather than a jumping off point for actual paintings.  If I can fool my impatient half into seeing it as work altogether of its own, then perhaps the graveyard of unfinished work will slowly shrink in size until it's gone.

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