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Saturday, April 4, 2015

How I Cured Myself of Being an Anal Artist (sort of)

I consider myself to be overly anal about my work. I can be hyper critical and a perfectionist almost to the point of being ridiculous.

For example, at the time of this writing I am working on a sculpture with approximately 300 very small labels on it. These are in most cases less than a half inch wide. They could easily be replaced with something resembling lettering to give the effect of the written word. But I've carefully created every single label and placed them carefully upon the sculpture, most of which will be obscured anyway but other parts of the sculpture. But the point is, its what I felt I needed to do with the piece.

The pitiful thing is, I used to be a lot worse! I used to let my habit for perfection slow me down to the point of getting little done. I would paint something and fuss over the direction and angle the paint applied, the depth of the paint, was it covering properly, etc. In reality, once the paint dried, 90% of those problems would disappear anyway.

Now I feel like I've struck a good balance where I place perfection in my work but not at the risk of ending up not creating anything. But how did I do it?

Well I know this sounds odd, but I got HIV. Yes, that disease thing. For a time I was very sick and it effected my eyes to a certain extent. For about 6 months I was faced with the decision of not working at all or working with reduced eyesight.

I chose to keep working. And to my surprise, while it made it harder to create, it did not diminish my ability to do so. In fact I found it sped up my work because I was more intent on creating than worrying about the output. It just felt good to create. It gave me balance at a time when I really needed it.

Don't get the wrong impression. I am not advocating that artists go out and get debilitating diseases to cure their anal habits. But once my eyesight got better, I was curious to try an experiment. I basically kept working in near darkness.

My studio has a nice front porch and the weather here in New Orleans allows me to keep my studio door open to the night breezes while I work (which is pretty much all night). What I did, was when I was working on something small, I would take it out onto the porch where the light was very dim and lit only by street lights and strings of Mardi Gras lights around my porch. More than adequate to see by, but not nearly adequate enough to allow me to scrutinize every single details of what I was doing.

And you know, it worked. Sure there were occasional problems and I'd need to bring what I was working on into the studio proper to make sure I had done it right, but it cured me of my overly anal habits.

There was something here that I was grasping and that I could use and what others could use. I continued to experiment with it and now I am so confident that I can go out on the porch at night and work almost without pause as fast as I could in the studio.

So I started suggesting it to artists I mentor as a skill strengthening skill and it seems to work with them also. I suggest that they take an hour every other night and lower their workplace lights down about 75% and continue to create. See what it does for strengthening your skills and lowering your perfectionist tendencies.

It is a well known fact that losing one of our senses will strengthen others. It won't happen overnight, but you may just find your a better artist for it.

I'd like feedback on this. If anyone tries it, please share your stories here. Your experiences could benefit other artists.

Now if I could just get this technique to work on the rest of my life!


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