“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
This face is hiding amidst my journal pages–a practice piece. She looks worried…or sad…her eyes a bit glossy. Has she been crying? This is not a perfectly drawn or crafted portrait. With that, she conveys something, doesn’t she?
Several years ago, one of my younger sisters held her wedding in Lake Tahoe. As many of the eight siblings as could get there, gathered with the newlyweds to celebrate. When she and her new husband were leaving the celebratory party we had staged, as they were getting into the elevator, her new husband made a comment about my sister not being perfect. His comment came across as derogatory. I looked at him and I said, “She’s the perfect Robin (her name).” Isn’t that what any one of us can aspire to be…the perfect you or me? Or him or her?
How does one even establish a standard for PERFECTION? It seems that we need to measure it against something that’s been confirmed–(the highest score) or someone else (a society’s idea of beauty)? So to describe perfection, we make a comparison. In science, that might work. But in a world of variety, diversity, melange–in the sheer array of humans on the planet, how can one even begin to establish a standard of perfection? If we consider that perfection is overrated or invalid, what can we strive for?
Ah, to be you and me, each in his/her own wholeness, what greater thing to design for yourself!
When making art, there is the artist, the substrate, the paint, the brush and what begs to be expressed through the artist. Art is one avenue to express the emotions that want to run away with you. And there are so many deeply felt emotions during these days of pandemic. An artist is able to transmute a deeply felt emotion into a creative action through making art. The chemical response in your body as you make art is felt. Try it, don’t take my word for it! And please do forget perfection.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Comparison is a tender spot for many an artist. Last week, at an art exhibit where I had a piece on display, I heard myself repeatedly minimizing my painting. I had already walked around the exhibit and seen the work of masterful artists, some of whom had been painting for their entire lives. Inwardly, I went into “I’ve only been painting for five years. I’ve learned what I’ve learned from online classes, my own practice and experience. I never went to art school.” In other words, I diminished my art and myself.
When someone complimented me or said they liked the painting, I said “You’re being kind.” I heard myself nearly apologizing for my piece! Where on earth did all of this self-denigration come from? Thinking about it in retrospect, it feels painful.
Yesterday, when a friend said I should send an online portfolio of my art to a larger venue, like San Francisco or the bay area at least, I nearly laughed. “You must be kidding!” I said. But she wasn’t. She had seen several groupings of my art and said that she recognized my unique style. “You have a style,” she said. “Why not try?” she queried.
So here it is, in my face once again–the artist produces a product. It matters less about the “expertise” of the painting as to what the process was for me. What is the journey I took to bring this painting into fruition? Did I take the journey with acquiesce or protest? Did I allow myself to be guided by the question what next? Did I push through the “ugly” stages and arrive at a better place? Did I say what I wanted to say? Did I fall in love with my piece, finally? I DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE EXCUSES FOR ANY OF THIS!
Being an artist, like being a human, isn’t about comparison. It is about SELF-EXPRESSION, your personal process and if you so choose, sharing your gifts with others.
In the Desiderata, the author reminds us “always there will be greater and lesser persons [artists] than yourself.”
Finally, he says, “Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
I mean, does a tree really desire to have human qualities attributed to it? Then, does a tree even have desire? Can’t a tree stand alone, sovereign, without humans endowing it with our virtues, vices, qualities or behaviors?
Maybe not! Maybe writers and poets use personification as a means to comprehend what is termed “other”. By comparing something to ourselves, perhaps we think we have an understanding of what it is or isn’t.
According to poet and writer, Mary Oliver, “Personification is the term used when one gives a physical characteristic or innate quality of animation to something that is inanimate…” She gives an example from poet, James Wright–
“I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands.”
A second definition for personification is from poet and writer, Frances Mayes: “An emotion or something inhuman, such as a mountain or love or a tree, is given human qualities.”
A few more examples:
- from Stephen Spender, “…whispers of wind in the listening sky…”
- from William Sharp, “…the sleeping sea…” OR “…And in the soft ear of Spring, light voices sing.”
- from creative soul and nature sprite, Opal Whiteley, “I danced on a log…as the wind does play the harps in the forest.”
WRITING PROMPT: Choose something in nature with which you feel a connection. Animate it with human qualities. Use poetry or prose, whatever makes you feel more at ease. Does this type of comparison come easy to you?
(photo of Castle Lake by Christine O’Brien)
“The sky smiled at its reflection in the lake.”