I’m a sufferer of what I like to call squirrel brain. Because I’m always on the hunt for food, yes, but also because I can’t sit still and I’m always looking for something new to fixate on. I have more interests than Netflix has TV programming to offer. I’ve tasted the waters of everything from writing fanfiction, to writing novels and blogs, to learning French, to practicing yoga, to self-teaching myself photography, to a still-lingering obsession with the Romanovs, to living in infinite intrigue about the cosmos and life outside of our little planet. Recently, I’ve expanded my curiosity into the art of painting and just as with everything else, I can’t ever just scratch the surface and taste it. I dive so deep I can’t even see the rays of light peeking through the surface anymore.
Painting has always had a certain allure with me—most art has, really. But I’ve always stood in awe of people who are able to recreate an image, whether real or imaginative, and whether they do it realistically, abstractly or whatever technique they decide to use. Still, I never tried it myself, until now, because I imagined I’d be no good. Until recently, after Hurricane Irma hit my island and destroyed part of the building where I worked, I suddenly found myself with more time on my hands than I’ve ever had before, so I figured, why not give it a go just for fun?
I’m glad I did because I love it. Granted, I’m not very good but I’ve found that that matters very little. I’ve found, in the short time that I’ve been painting that I have learned much more than just blending techniques, especially where my perfectionism is concerned.
More often than I’d like to admit, my perfectionism has tied my foot to an anchor and forbid me from moving forward or backward. As I mentioned, I never considered trying to paint before because, right-off the bat, I assumed I’d be no good at it. Defeatist mentality at best and I’m not proud of it. Because somewhere in my mind there’s a belief that I need to be born a Picasso or not even try at all, forgetting that even Picasso wasn’t born the Picasso we all know today. He worked his whole life towards honing his art until his name became synonymous with art.
I’ve done this even with writing. I’ve procrastinated writing projects all the way through to the end of the internet because I hated the idea of putting something down on paper. If it wasn’t going to be likened to the works of Jane Austen or some other celebrated author, then what was the point?
It’s been easier to deal with my perfectionism through painting because, for me, it’s more of a hobby than writing. When I paint it’s basically “play time,” while when I write it’s strictly “let’s create a number one New York Times bestselling novel that will transcend the boundaries of space and time.” Since I’m not trying to make my livelihood out of painting, I’m able to relax more. And in relaxing more I become more aware of the moments in which my perfectionism starts acting up.
Painting is fun, but I can easily turn the most fun solitary activity into a military drill that is not to be failed. When my paintings start making their own way—under the guidance of my unpracticed hands—my brain begins to hum the old familiar tune of “You can’t do this/You Suck/Why would you even try?”
That’s when I catch myself and realize I’m doing it and then I ask myself, “Who the f*ck cares?”
Slowly but surely, I’ve been learning to fight it. Or I should say, painting has been teaching me to fight it. Because it’s not about having a perfect piece at the snap of my fingers. It’s about figuring out the shades, the right blend of colors, seeing a brush in your hand slowly piece an image together from scratch. Where would the fun in painting be if it was just as simple as the snap of two fingers? Strategizing, finding ways to correct your errors is part of all the fun.
I get so caught up thinking about the finished piece that I stop enjoying the process. I have to remind myself that painting is not about having a painting, it’s about the act and process of painting. Same with writing. Writing shouldn’t be about having a published novel (okay, it is a little for me), it should also be about the fun of building the story slowly from scratch, taking little pieces of the puzzle and finding all the matching parts.
I love learning. I hated school mostly because teachers get too caught up being condescending and love feeding the rat race, but I could easily spend the rest of my life self-teaching myself new things. Still, whispers from that voice that tells me I need to be the best otherwise I’m nothing still linger in my subconscious, threatening to steal any enjoyment I may get from the process of learning new skills or gaining fresh new knowledge.
Trying to break these old self-berating habits and finally allowing myself to shine in all my “misblended” colors is a long, trying process. But the point is to never stop trying. Right now I’ve found a way to keep practicing how to fight those voices and simply enjoy being submerged in some form of art. Through painting as a hobby, I’m also learning to hush those voices when I write. I’m learning to just follow the impulse that tells me to write/paint/learn/do/enjoy and ignore the Negative Nancys that live in my head.
We should all follow our hearts and try new things just because we want to. Let’s always remember that no one has ever been born perfect and no one ever really becomes perfect. We all just get better at expressing ourselves and honing our own voice/style through whatever form of art we’ve chosen to use. Like they always say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. So let’s enjoy getting there one bad painting at a time.