Posts in Words & Letters
Marvelous Human Mess

  When you make a mistake do you feel challenged to learn and adjust for the next time around, or do you admonish yourself and see it as a character defect? Or something in between?

I used to have a studio in a shipyard in the Bay Area. A variety of characters would pop in to see paintings in progress. Before they could say a word, within 30 seconds I had shown them all of the flaws in the painting. Luckily, the folks in the shipyard were artists and entrepreneurs. Their opinions of my work often took me by surprise. For many of them mistakes communicated entries into the imagination far faster than any conception or direction I may have had in mind.

One night I painted me dumping my head out of all its garbage into a recycle truck. My studio/office mate chuckled and asked if it worked. I told him that I believed that once I had nailed my character defects I would be a real painter. He said, "This isn't Miss America. Your character defects are what draw me into your paintings."

The nature of perfectionism assumes a law of order that is attainable if only we strive hard enough and become aware of anything that sullies it —  The battle of the lint of our imperfections can be intense.

I read a report card from my second grade teacher that she was concerned I would never be satisfied with an A+ — that I sought a grade higher not yet invented.

Creative practice during messy times has pummeled the perfectionist in me. When time is low and guilt is high and hungry deadlines persist, I've had to use the uglies in the work and make whatever is, oh, how to say this without cringing ... "good enough" ... yikes those words my toes curl.

By practicing imperfection I've grown fascinated by the human mess and standards by which the mess makes itself known. In particular the standard of perfectionism. Sheesh, where did that come from? The imperfections are so much more exciting. They give us more to discover and a wider array of materials to work with -- true adventure. Character defects make colors I have never seen. And isn't that true art? The expression of the tangled hairball of humanity is a painting I would buy over one that demonstrates perfect color theory.

Be proud of the marvelous human mess and make art of it.