Sunday, October 4, 2009

Departing from the State of Perfection

Before I found scrapbooking, I dabbled in painting. Featured here, is my last unfinished painting, that will remain unfinished and demoted to our basement. Perhaps I will hang it up one day in its unfinished state, just so it may serve as a visual reminder. Why would I hang up an unfinished painting you ask? Because it signifies a turning point in my artistic pursuits. This painting was an awakening - my muse's loud message that the state of perfection is unattainable, and worse - it leaves one artistically unfulfilled.

You see, I have painted and repainted these clouds too many times to count. Each time I add another brushstroke or a different color hoping it will be another step towards perfection, yet my tweaking attempts just made it worse. Perfection, I have come to learn, is unattainable to mortals, and perhaps if it is attainable, then it is unrecognizable to our minds. In other words, what we currently behold may already be "perfect", unfortunately we don't appreciate it as "perfect" based on the deep-rooted belief that we can't get to that which is absolutely perfect (but I'm going into the psychoanalytic woods here ;)
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So what does this painting have to do with scrapbooking? Plenty! Over the past couple of months I've been reevaluating my scrapbook pages and work-flow since I started in late 2004. I've noticed that the biggest threat to my creativity is this quest for perfection that I've experienced previously as a painter. It didn't go away when I've abandoned painting, it just followed me over to my new hobby of scrapbooking.

Prior to creating a new layout, I would procrastinate and deliberate by looking through my enormous stash of patterned paper, trying to find the 'perfect' one that will complement my photos. It took me ages to finish just one layout.

I also took the easy road by creating mostly "happy" layouts (coincidentally just like this "happy", yet subject matter-shallow painting). Scrapbooking has captivated me initially because of the stories and family legacy I am leaving behind for the future generations. I had stories to tell, experiences that shaped my - not all were bright and cheerful- yet the content that mattered most was left out.

Things had to change. These are the rules I imposed on myself to start scrapbooking faster, more creatively, with greater subject matter depth, and most important care-free without the limitations of perfection-seeking behaviors:
  • Set a time limit for each stage of your layout; For example, I give myself 5 min. to find the patterned papers and cardstock that I'll use for that page. If it does not match, it's OK and even better, the unexpected is often more intriguing ;) Better yet, do that with all your supplies! Set a time limit so short that you would be forced to just grab and create with whatever is in your reach.
  • Do not overthink it: act, do, glue those papers down...move! don't think too much whether things match.
  • Don't feel you have to "cut your story short" just because of space limitations or design restrictions on the page. For example, on this double layout My Best Friends Wedding, I typed up a lengthy account of the wedding on a 8.5 x 12" piece of cardstock with a decorative fabric tab on the top of the page. I placed the letter with the tab 'pull', behind the layout/inside the page protector, so that the reader would know to pull out the letter and read it. If the story is important to tell - tell it! Years from now, now one will care that you used vellum butterflies on your page, but they will delight in reading about your account of the wedding.
  • If you get overcome with the nit-picking urge to make it 'perfect', grab some paint or spray ink and purposefully do something rash and unplanned -it may be the most 'perfect' mistake.
  • To gain perspective on your work, ask your family for their input. My eldest son's face lights up every time he sees his "Elmo layout". I don't feel this is my most creative piece, yet the smiles and enthusiasm I get when he looks at it makes me love this layout!
  • Pay attention to the layouts that are not your taste or style as much - or even more than - the ones that you find beautiful. A few scrappers in my gallery don't appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities, but I analyze their layouts and ask myself questions: why did this catch my attention? why am I not willing to try this? could I incorporate something similar but with a twist? Be an active observer.
What about You? Are there any strategies you may have that increase your creativity and scrap-related productivity? I hope you share with me what has worked for you ;)


Lauren said...

WOW! I am blown away by your openness and honesty and I know EXACTLY what you mean about the scrapbooking. Here's to moving forward with intention.

JgWM said...

thanks for frending me on Scrap n Style.

Love the painting that you posted it and I would love to have it in my house just as it is. It leaves room for your imagination to go to work.

Funny thing is my best friend and I were discussing that we have to stop spending so much time on out lay outs. Which is hard it has to look finished....

I find that some of my simpler lay outs are my favorites. Why is it the ones you love the most do not always appeal to others. Simple answer. It means soemthing to you.

I actually have a layout on Scrapbook that I love, but it did not get a lot of response from the masses. But guess what it was picked up by a magazine.

Some people get it!!
Stay true to your self, it is your passion.