When I first began learning to draw I believed that drawings should be perfect likenesses of the subject. Anything less than perfection I counted as failure. Needless to say, I failed in every respect. But it was all right, I told myself. I was just a beginning artist. So, even though I failed to draw a subject perfectly, I was still pleased if I my drawings were at least recognizable.
I now have a lot of fun going through my first sketchbook and looking at my awful drawings. They’re really not awful at all, especially for a beginner at drawing.
Most of my early drawings were from various lessons, like this page from my sketchbook dated June 27, 2015:
Perfect? Well, yes, and no. It’s certainly not a perfect illustration of a bear, but it’s a perfect little cartoon fellow, don’t you think? Considering I’d been learning to draw for less than three weeks, I think this cute little guy is about as perfect as he can be.
At least, that’s how I feel about him now. When I drew him, I counted him as just another failure along the way, one more faltering step on my journey toward becoming an artist.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of graphite drawing, and I’m pleased to say that my skills have definitely improved. Yet even now, I still fret about the imperfections in my work.
As part of my drawing studies each day, I look for simple objects around the house — usually something from our kitchen since that’s where I do most of my artwork.
I drew this slotted spoon and fussed about it. You can see my critical note to myself that the curve is wrong.
Yeah, it’s a little off.
And I drew this vase one morning. Oh, but what an awful mess I made of that cast shadow!
And then there was this tomato — which, as you can see, my “cranky art teacher” referred to as stupid-looking.
My drawings are far from perfect, but reading these words from Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner made me look at those imperfections in a different way:
“Fear that you don’t have talent is often based on a belief that a piece of art needs to be perfect, that you need to be perfect. None of us can achieve perfection. In fact, when what you consider imperfect comes through in your drawing, that may be just the part that has your personal stamp and makes it unique to you. That is often where the art is.”
– Claire Watson Garcia –
I have re-read those words many times this summer, and although it’s an idea I’ve heard often, it’s finally beginning to soak into my brain. Many times I’ve questioned art — what it is, where it comes from, how we know what’s art and what’s not art. I’m starting to see now that art isn’t meant to be perfection. If we wanted a perfect representation of a subject, we could take a photograph. That’s what cameras are for. That’s not what our pens and pencils and paints are all about.
I’ve never liked hyper-realistic drawings and paintings, and I realize now why that is. Because they appear too perfect, they don’t look like art.
Recently, fellow blogger Jeni Bate from Skyscapes for the Soul reminded me that “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be believable.” Wise words. Thank you, Jeni.
Everything we do will be imperfect in some way, or at least subject to our own personal touch. Time after time when I’m knitting or crocheting a gift for someone, I worry about a little mistake I’ve made only to have my husband tell me that my mistakes are good things. Those little mistakes show the time and the love I’ve put into the project.
Yesterday I reminded him of those words as he was finishing up a wood-working project. He was unhappy because the varnish wasn’t perfect. He had a few little runs. “That’s what shows the love, remember?” I told him, and he gave it a little thought and realized that it’s true.
It’s especially true in art, I think, above all else. The imperfections are part of our style, they’re evidence of our love and devotion to what we’re creating. Trying to take imperfections away from our work would leave us with something cold, lifeless, and meaningless.
Yes, I will still practice my drawing and strive to improve my techniques, but I will no longer worry about imperfections. Every drawing I make has a little piece of me hidden there among the lines, and nobody can take that away.