Thursday, December 3, 2009

On not being perfect

At any given time, I'm likely to have four or five different projects on my workbench. Most are for customers, but usually there's at least one piece for me in the mix. Right now that piece is this old Herden calf resin. I bought this guy brand new from Carol over fifteen years ago. He was state of the art then, but time hadn't been kind. His paintwork was showing a lot of wear and he had a number of major prepping issues. I thought he'd make a fun project--just a little bit of prep and paint and he'd be better than ever.

Yeah right.

Like so many things I start, this little calf project has spun completely out of control. For one thing, the prepping issues were epic. He had pinholes everywhere. Ugh. I've never seen so many pinholes, and don't you know it became necessary to fill every last one of them. After that, I got stuck on the roughness of the original sculpture. Now I'm stressing about putting the coat texture back into the spots I had to rebuild... At this rate it will be Spring before he's ready for paint.

I keep telling myself that this is insane. He's a prop. He doesn't have to be perfect. And yet, when it comes right down to it, that's exactly what I want him to be.

I hear some hobby artists brag about being perfectionists and maybe that works for them. For me, however, there is nothing more counterproductive that perfectionism. I am constantly struggling to accept my own limitations, to allow myself to be happy with something that isn't perfect. I have to remind myself that it's ok that the saddle's flaps aren't completely symmetrical or that the stirrup bars should have been one sixteenth of an inch further forward or that the stitchmarking is just a wee bit crooked... If I can't allow myself these "mistakes", I get into a bad cycle of doing things over and over until I am completely frustrated and no longer want to work.

I am getting better at embracing my own imperfections. Surprisingly, taking commissions has really helped me with this. It's made me more accountable because even the most patient customers expect to get their tack eventually. I can't stay stuck on one piece forever. Deadlines force me to buckle down and finish the damn saddle.

I think it's time for this calf to get a deadline. I have wasted way too much time on him. I need to decide that enough is enough and move on to the next step.

Will someone please come kick my butt if he's not painted by this time next week?


  1. I think you're absolutely right about perfectionism being counterproductive. I recently completed nanowrimo (on my third attempt) and that certainly teaches you to embrace the rubbish :-) because that's a lot better than nothing!

  2. Paint it black, stick it in your props and forget it :)

    And I can kick your butt if you wish.

  3. Solid black? Are you kidding me? You know he's going to be a Hereford, right?

    (I have issues)

    I really love the idea of nanowrimo. When I was younger, I used to play at writing a novel and it was just a million revisions of the first chapter. One of these years I'm going to sign up for nanowrimo and see if I can actually get to chapter two...

  4. You'll finish him sometime! Just don't drive yourself crazy with perfectionism. If you hurry too much on him he probably wont turn out how you wanted him anyway.

    Be sure to share pics of "Hereford" when you finish him! :)

  5. I should add that your saddles look pretty perfect to the rest of us!

    You should definitely sign up for nanowrimo, it's such a positive and supportive environment. I always struggled to stop rewriting the first chapter too :-)