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.