In this week’s podcast episode, Don’t Wait for Perfect, I made a creative confession… I have been waiting for perfect when it comes to my sketchbook. The issue for me is two-fold…
Number one (and this is the biggie) – It’ll be terrible and embarrassing. The pathetic attempt at art will show just how bad I truly am. It will be brutally honest and I will have to face the possibility that anything I’ve created that is decent was completely by chance and now I’m exposed.
Number two (and this is to a much lesser extent, but still a hangup) – I’m worried that everything will go right. I will capture that elusive magical component that sometimes happens in art and then it will then be stuck in the confines of my sketchbook. I will wish that I rendered it on better paper or canvas, so it could be framed and/or sold. (This ties into my desire to engage in productive and profitable activities whenever possible!)
Of course, both concerns are completely ridiculous. Real in my mind, but ridiculous nonetheless.
The whole point of a sketchbook is to be a place to practice. You are hoping you will trip across something that’s great and should be reproduced to frame or sell. And it’s also a safe place to make bad art. It’s a place to test new ideas and work on areas of weakness. But, beyond that, it’s a place to record what’s in your head. It’s your interpretation of the world.
Last year, when I went to France and Italy on a trip with my mom, I wanted to sketch more than almost anything else. I imagined myself sitting in a cafe chair, eating a pastry, and sketching what I saw…a bike leaned up against a wall, women wearing straw sunhats, flowers spilling out of a window box. Well, I did one sketch in the airport and a half-finished pencil sketch in Italy and that’s it. I made excuses and wiggled my way out of sketching any more than that, I’m sad to say. And it was all because of these stupid reasons. It won’t be perfect or maybe it will be too perfect.
And in focusing on the art itself, I was completely neglecting to acknowledge the joy of sitting and sketching in Paris or Lucca or Barga. I was discounting the benefit of lingering in a place long enough to capture it in pencil and watercolors, not just with a camera. I had the time and supplies and I said no to the invitation to observe, interpret, and create. In the podcast, Shuanna caught me off guard with the question, “What would happen if your sketch wasn’t perfect and didn’t have straight lines?” I stuttered through an answer that wasn’t a real answer. “Eh..um…err…well…” After thinking about it for a few days, the answer is, “Nothing.” I would simply have a sketch I wasn’t completely 100% happy with.
As I pondered that answer, I realized I won’t ever regret making a bad sketch, but I will regret not even trying for fear it will be bad. And I do regret that I didn’t sketch or paint when I was in France and Italy last year.
So, I have committed that I won’t repeat that mistake when I head back to Europe in September. I will bring all of my sketch and watercolor supplies and I will put them to use. I’ve already started practicing by sketching my neighbors’ homes while I’m sitting on the porch in the evenings. Since I’m scared of the straight lines and angles of architecture, they are the perfect subject.
The next night I sat out on the porch and moved on to creating sketches and watercolors from some of the pictures I took on my trip last year.
And you know what? I thought they weren’t too bad! They aren’t perfect, but they certainly aren’t the embarrassing disaster I was so fearful of. As I sketched and painted, I looked forward to doing this on my trip in a couple of weeks. It no longer felt like something hanging over my head…something to dread.
I’m now looking forward to packing my art supplies with excitement instead of a sense of impending failure and disappointment. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
I’ll share my sketches on @thecreativeexponent Instagram stories for accountability if you want to follow along! I’ll be traveling on September 6-18, 2019.