Embracing imperfection

I set out to write last week and needed something to write about so I went to the park to draw something from life.  I used to do this regularly in school but lately I haven’t allowed myself the time.  I needed “nature” and happened to be close to central park– Ahh, yes perfect.

I parked myself in front of a tree, pulled out my sketch book  and I realized I had forgotten my pencils, charcoal, and markers etc.  Shute.  That’s ok— nothing was going to stop me- I pulled out the pens I did have– better than nothing.  I probably drew one of the worst drawings that I have done in years.   I couldn’t get the tree to show up on my paper in an interesting way– I became frustrated– I scratched and scratched away at it— it felt terrible– I needed to write this post, I have been neglecting my blog for waaaaay too long and I felt really stressed about it. And, because of that–  It needed to be perfect.

I  kept going– I’m not one to give up, but as I drew it got worse and worse.  I started to focus on copying the tree exactly and it spiraled further down a vortex of desperate drawing —  stress building.  Then I remembered something.

A few weeks ago I had gone to a lecture at the NewSchool given by google creative lab.  I thought it was going to be a lecture on their particular work processes and but it wasn’t that exactly.  It was more like an hour-long advertisement for some of their new products and creations– one of which had both amazed and depressed me.  They had come up with a machine/software that could take a photo of someone and create a perfectly loosely rendered pen and ink sketch  of that person.  It was actually really cool, but. . . it made me think of all the years I had been doing that in my sketchbook and that this skill I had developed could now be done by a machine.  And a machine could do it faster and cheaper than anything I could do– and probably better- or at least more perfectly.

What am I doing? and why am I trying to make this perfect?  I looked down at my rigid, stressed tree and took a deep breath.  The tree looked the way I felt– it looked tense.  Something dawned on me.   I started to look really deeply at the tree.  I started to try and feel what it felt like to be a tree as I drew it.  What did the light leaves twinkling in the breeze feel like?  I felt them as I drew– What did the solid trunk feel like rooted and supported by soil.  I started to feel connected and rooted as I drew the base.  I didn’t care what it looked like– I started to care what it felt like.  I was on to something.

I needed to start a new drawing with this new insight in mind– I looked around- ahh yes- the Met!! I made my way out of the park and into the greek and Roman sculpture galleries.  Ahhh yes.  I found a statue and started to feel it from the inside out as I drew. I felt the smoothness of the marble as I traced the curves and lines of the body.  I felt the tension in the fabric in the places where it gathered.  It felt good.  It didn’t turn out perfect.  I didn’t care because the process was worth it.   I didn’t care because I had learned something.

I’m making an effort to enjoy the process more than the end result now.    I try to notice how things feel and if they don’t feel good, there is probably a learning opportunity in that and I aim to look for it.

Embracing imperfection is an accomplishment and something to strive for.    Here’s my tree that taught me something more valuable than some flashy google robot.

Scan 15