I’ve fallen in love with bits of a portrait I’m painting. Not all of it, just parts – some strands of hair, a little rendering in the cheek. This is a bad thing. Every time I get ready to work on it, I become paralyzed. I worry about ruining those parts I love, they’ve become… PRECIOUS. I know I’ll work through this feeling and finish the painting. It does however, remind me of a great lesson learned years ago by my favorite art instructor.
During my last year in university, I took a senior painting class taught by a tough, but brilliant artist. I learned more from his class than any other. It was 6 hours of painting, 7 if you chose to work through lunch, which many of us did. In one class, we were painting a still life in oils. Next to me was a quiet and studious girl I didn’t know very well. 15 minutes before the class ended, she put down her brushes and admired her finished painting. The instructor came by, asked why she wasn’t painting, she said she was done. He picked up a rag, wiped off all those hours of her ‘precious’ work and politely said, “No you’re not”. The shock and devastation of her face was immediate. The shock and I admit, relief (glad I wasn’t done before her), was apparent on mine too. It seems like a cruel gesture, and I’d agree if it was elementary or high school, but he made a valuable point. The process of learning and doing are what count. The finished OBJECT of the painting is irrelevant, at least while you’re a student. It does feel wonderful to sit back and admire all your hard work after you’ve finished a piece, but don’t you feel freer creating when you just don’t care what the end result will be? This applies to everyone. I notice my kids doodling away just because they ‘feel’ like it and I love the vibrancy and creativity they express. When I ask them to make a card to send to Grandpa, I’m always surprised how less creative and ‘safe’ their drawings become. And I know it’s because they’re focusing on their artwork as an object - a card.
Many words later and I think I’ve talked my way out of ‘preciousness’, back to the easel…and my very cluttered studio.