• Mona

My Dance with Perfection

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

Dec 6, 2018.

I painted like Matesse, but wanted to be Rembrandt. I was never good enough or too good (secretly of course). Consequently I hung around the fringes of art for years.

I eventually learned I was a perfectionist and could never measure up to my own standards. And because I was defiant about avoiding the ‘starving’ artist stigma, I was going to make money at it. I decided I probably couldn’t make money at early efforts, so I didn’t even really try. Instead I spent the next 20 years perfecting digital art and teaching children at the art gallery. I actually went to Emily Carr because I got tired of the critical comments of digital art cheating and not being real.

I finally took to plunge to find out why I was hiding from myself. What was underneath? Fear disguised as a number of other labels was revealed. Procrastination. Lazy. Control. I put a bazillion other trivial things and ahead of the one thing I really wanted to do until I was too tired, too broke, too late, too happy, too sad to start. Fours trips to the store to make sure its what I really wanted, arranging and rearranging the stack of towels, or scouring the outsides of the pan. OCD I believe is the official diagnosis these days. But the outcome is the same: a dark bottomless abyss.

My fear of not measuring up, others judgment, my own judgment (we’re our own worst critics), insecurity, low self esteem, all played into it. I had strong premonitions at every one of those speed bumps, but couldn’t see them. Lazy? How I could be lazy if my studio was neat as a pin, my records meticulous, towels stacked by color and understood all the elements, tools and techniques of art? How could all that work, that knowledge, still leave me feeling empty, like I was still at square one?

Threatening to swallow me whole I had to do something so I prayed. I asked God to reveal what I was missing. Imagine the disappointment to realize I was at square one! He began untangling my mess. I saw that I was lazy. Learning how to paint like Rembrandt takes time. I thought I was fast tracking my success to a status and retirement RRSP’s, until He revealed the false identity I built instead. I created my own pressure by being the artist who hand-made a growing list of annual gifts until I thought I was too thoughtless or selfish if I didn’t. All the while, of course, refusing to accept anything short of perfect. No wonder I got burnt out: achieving less, stressing more, striving harder.

So next rolled in the depression. Which of course every outfit is anxious to sell you their tonic.

In the end it was God who showed me how to take one genuine baby step at a time that He directs. There is no fast-track. Twenty years of being around art and I am just now applying the very things I taught, one canvas at a time.

And during the whole process, I discovered success isn’t what I thought it was. The people I came to admire the most were successful by the confidence they had; their ability to say no; they’re positive outlook, often in spite of negative experiences; ability to encourage others; and could ask for what they need without guilt or remorse. It didn’t matter what brand of jeans they wore.

I still don’t paint like Rembrandt and my studio is ruffled with use, but I am having the time of my life. All because I gave up being able to put lipstick on in the refection of my pot. Thank you MS.

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