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May 25, 2019
Perfection Is A Lie

Perfection is a Lie.

What is true is that nothing in life will be perfect, its one of the basic tenants of being human.  We are perfect in our imperfections, they are what make us who we are, what makes each of us unique, what makes us individuals.

So why then, do we expect to create perfection in our art (whatever medium it is)?

I see many people comment about how they are paralysed with the need to create perfection, not yet realising that it is unacheivable conciously, but unconciously, that knowledge is what what is causing the paralysis.  Because a part of the brain knows that there is no end state in art.

My previous blog post was on giving yourself permission to fail, and a key part of that is understanding that perfection is not a goal, it is a myth.

Perfection is the lie we tell ourselves to make it feel like we have achieved something. 

Why would we release a piece of art into the world and put our name on it if it is flawed?  Well my first question is - will anyone who is not the artist be able to tell that there are flaws?  I would be willing to bet in many instances the answer is NO.

We know that in history painters painted over their work many times, changing and evolving a piece. I'm sure that the Cistine Chapel has some brushstrokes that were not always in exactly the right place. The Mona Lisa is tiny, and the Eiffel Tower is huge.

Why do we struggle with the concept that art will constantly evolve?  Every new piece we create is new, its never been done before, so we are learning as we go.  It is natural that mistakes will be made, because that is part of the learning process.  So why the shame in presenting something not 100% perfect even when most people will never notice?

I am not a psychologist or have any training, but my personal opinion is that it relates to fear.  Fear of being judged - for many things I suspect.  That we didn't do a good enough job, that our work is sub standard, that it isn't 'good' enough and ultimately that 'we' are not good enough.

Man, those are pretty harsh standards to live by! 

Yet take Jackson Pollock - the man who splashed paint over canvas and was lauded for it!!  Banksy who randomly decorates walls and buildings with political statements done with a stencil and a can of paint under cover of darkness.  Picasso or Salvador Dali, both of whom did very surreal works unlike anything else seen before.

Who is to judge something so radically different to what is already known, as less than or not good enough?

Yes I hear you, the traditional art establishment has a lot of influence and a rather limited and narrow focus, and not always a welcoming embrace for art forms outside of the "accepted norms" and that mentality flows through the art schools and academic centers.  So if you are outside that and don't formal training in a recognised medium, its easy to feel excluded.  

Its hard enough getting photography taken seriously, but if you play in the more creative or digital art space its even harder to be accepted.  Most competitions don't cater to it at all.

Yet every day I see people creating amazing images and art, who share them online, often with trepidation and words like "I'm new and this isn't as good as the stuff I see here"  or "I am in awe of the work here but here is my first post".

Do they not realise that everyone else all started at the beginning too?  That we made all the same mistakes, maybe even invented a few new ones just for fun :)

Its in the process of creating and failing that we learn.  Its how both we, and our art evolve.  Because we are human, and we are constantly a work in progress, it makes sense that our art will be too.

My message to you is that Perfection Is A Lie.


Sometimes we have to put our flawed work out there and ask for feedback, its how we get an objective point of view, and input from people with more and different experiences to ourselves.

Yes its bloody scary, especially the first time, but its necessary.  Because if we don't take the risk on sharing our work in its imperfect state, then we and it will stagnate.

So, do the work, do it enough to be called done, and then do the scary thing and share it.  You never know, people just might like it, no matter how imperfect you think it is.

One important final note - especially for women (many who tend to suffer from Imposter Syndrome) - its really important NOT to describe your work in the terms of all the things you see wrong with it.  Most people won't see it or care - but if you open with that then they WILL SEE IT and then your worst fears will instantly be realised.

Put your work out there and let it be judged on its own merits.  Choose the places you want to ask for feedback - make sure they are safe spaces where you can trust the responses to be genuine and supportive.  But again, unless you have a specific issue - ask for critique but let them tell you what they see.

Everyone brings something different to the table and it never fails to surprise me how differently other people see things.

Do the work, do it as well as you can and then be brave, embrace its imperfection and share it with the world anyway.

Every one of the images shared on this post is flawed in some way - some are obvious in that they are blurred with ICM (Intentional Camera Movement), some have a fault that only I notice.  Regardless they are work that I am proud to showcase as mine. If for no other reason, that each one taught me something new.