Perfectionism is like having a friend who always seems to have your self-interest in mind, but her advice only ends up steering your wrong.
She sounds like:
"Oouch, is that the line you just drew? Really?
Hmmm, you can do better than that can't you? Sure you can! You should erase that and start over until it's juuust right...umm, better try that again..."
I've seen some ugly wounds from Perfectionism...
One drawing student of mine splurged on a gorgeous sketchbook, fine paper, a nice pen...But she couldn't even bear to make a mark. She wanted the first drawing to be just right. Even though she'd bought the book just for the occasion of the class, she was frozen in fear at the idea of messing up the Perfection of the blank page.
If you don't conquer Perfectionism, it will conquer YOU in your quest to draw.
How to tame this demon:
"Start before you're ready."
"Art is like a sentence you begin before you know the Ending"
-Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making, by Bayles & Orland
My favorite story about the perils of Perfectionism comes from the book Art & Fear.
On the first day of class, a ceramics teacher tells his students they can decide how they want to be graded, by quantity or by quality.
Students who chose quantity would be graded simply on the weight of all their final pots, the heavier the pile of pots, the higher their score.
Students choosing quality would be graded on the perfection of only one single pot.
When the final day of class came around, everyone couldn't help but noticing that the highest QUALITY pots ALL came from the QUANTITY pile. While the quantity students were busy crafting pot after pot in their bid for the most bowls, they learned from each mistake and improved with each bowl. The quality kids on the other hand, were so busy thinking about perfection that they didn't come close to achieving it.
To defeat Perfectionism, you've got to keep your eyes on your long-term game.
It's about QUANTITY, not quality.
It's not always easy to divorce yourself from identifying with your drawing. A bad practice drawing may get you down if you think it's somehow a reflection of your self-worth.
The trick is to train yourself to applaud yourself for your effort, not when you reach perfection--after all, that's never going to happen.
Dedicate yourself to the practice of drawing without asking of anything back from your artwork. If your drawing doesn't need to be perfect for you, you don't need to be perfect for it.
The blank first page of a new sketchbook is not your enemy.
It's the starting line.
Perfection is in the Progress.
What about that old adage, "Practice makes perfect?"
Neuroscientists are singing a new song these days as we learn more about how practice affects the brain:
"Practice Doesn't make Perfect, Practice Makes Permanent."
What we practice over and over again doesn't evolve our ability per say, but it will cement a certain way of doing things in your brain.
We must bring consummate attention to the way we practice the elements of art, so that when we use them expressively in our work they work with us rather than against us.
Click the comic on the left by Doodle Alley to get the full story on how practice does NOT make perfect.
DAY 1 DRAWING DRILLS
Exercise 1: Line Drills
The following exercise will challenge your concentration, but the hard part won't be focusing, it will be letting go of all the imperfections in the drill. Remember, every wobbly line helps you straighten out in the long run.
Exercise Time: 10-20 Minutes
No erasing here.
I recommend using your ballpoint pen which should have a nice flow of ink. When drawing straight lines you don't want the pen skipping and you don't want a pencil, which will only tempt you to erase.
Fill up a page in your sketchbook with the following lines:
- Vertical Hatching: Straight vertical lines
- Horizontal Hatching: Straight horizontal lines, in various lengths
- Right Diagonal: Draw your lines moving diagonally, angling up to the right in various lengths
- Left Diagonal: Lines move diagonally up and to the left
- Combination: Experiment with using these lines together to create different effects.
This drawing drill looks easier than it seems. Can you tell looking at my drill which angle is the hardest for me? You will notice inconsistencies in how straight some lines are, and drawing in one direction is easier than the other sometimes.
BE AWARE of where you are at today--and know the straightness of your lines may change from day to day.
Exercise 2: Continuous Line Interval Training
This exercise will help you train your brain to focus with laser concentration on the line you are making.
The key to this drill is that you CANNOT PICK YOU PEN OFF THE PAPER during each timed drill.
Exercise Time: 5 Minutes
-Timer (use the timer on your phone)
-Simple object, such as a glass, candle, bowl, etc. to draw. Don't overthink this, there is no "perfect" object for this drill.
1) Set your object in front of you, and prepare your pen and sketchbook to start drawing as soon as you hit your timer
2) Set your timer to go off in 30 seconds.
3) Using ONE CONTINUOUS LINE (No picking up the pen!!) do your best to follow the contours of object.*
4) After you complete your 1st 30 second drill, reset your timer to 1 minute.
5) Repeat step 3, this time drawing without picking up your pen for 1 minute.
6) Reset your timer for 2 minutes for your final drill. Repeat step 3, this time drawing without picking up your pen for 2 minutes.
* I recommend keeping your eyes MOSTLY on the object you are drawing, but also checking in almost half the time on what is going on on your page. This is a skill in itself!
You can keep returning to this drill daily to see HUGE results in your drawings.
Workout your line work for even 20 minutes today, and your future drawings will thank you for it.
Remember: Perfection is in the PROGRESS, so once you're finished with your 2 exercises you have won the battle for day 1 of Bootcamp!
Nice work soldier 😉