“Enjoy developing your talents. How silent the wood if no bird sang save those who sang best.”
I read a wonderful article some time ago that I wish I had kept. It spoke of how we wanted, needed, to be instant masters of our newest pursuit; that we believed perfection was the only goal and should be achieved almost instantaneously—if not, we considered ourselves failures. We dismissed any thought of being a beginner. How sad, the article went on to say, we were missing out.
What we really need
This incessant drive for perfection leaves out all possibility of recognizing and enjoying gradual growth, of experiencing trial and error and moving beyond it. We need to take things a step at a time and celebrate each small victory along the way. We need to be gentle and supportive with ourselves, and train our inner voice to be our biggest cheerleader.
I’ve included a couple of pictures of my artwork. The first is a tray painted with acrylics, circa 1996. It was the first piece I painted in an art class. Some bright spots but it certainly has that beginner stamp to it. The second photo is a pen and ink of a lotus flower, one of my best pieces, in my own estimation. I completed that piece in 2008, 12 years after the painted tray. I definitely see some improvement!
I’m so glad I kept that tray. When I look at it, I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride. I remember getting lost in the act of painting, forgetting my “troubles” for a while and actually having fun!
Although I wasn’t completely satisfied with that first effort I continued on. Before my inner critic could discourage me totally, I started to paint another piece. I signed up for another class. I set some time aside for practice. With time, I realized that creating art was a great way to “get lost” and escape from the stress of my day job. I enjoyed meeting new people, making friends and developing my talents.
Enjoy the ride—even the ups and downs
As I continued to create, some projects were, in my opinion, “winners”; others were “learning experiences”. That still happens after 19 years. Over time, I noticed that my skills were improving; I was still having fun. I realized that there were no mistakes, only opportunities for self-expression.
Along the way my practice has evolved. I traded paint for ink and a photo-realistic style for an abstract one. I still experiment from time to time with watercolor. And, what’s most important, I’m still learning and loving every new beginning.
Note: You can read the previous installments of “Developing Your Creative Practice” here.