The courage to be an imperfect artist or how not to get stuck on your way to perfection

Author: Olga Uzun

12 min read

The courage to be an imperfect artist or how not to get stuck on your way to perfection

This is a very complicated challenge or difficult-to-learn skill for every artist both professional and amateurs or people who work in the creative industry  – an ability to be imperfect but to consistently strive to become better.

I think there are many of us who experienced the dark side of chasing perfection: dissatisfaction with yourself, which sometimes is getting really painful, paralyzing doubts and fears, and of course procrastination. Fortunately, to get rid of them, all you need to do is change your attitude towards yourself and realize a few important things.

So, here are some tips from me on how to create more without getting stuck, based on my humble experience (and believe me, I am a master of being stuck). I dedicate this article to everyone who makes art or works creatively.

Share your art and don’t be afraid of being judged

To some extent, sharing is an act of trust. It may be challenging, especially at first. But it will definitely bear fruit.

Short story! I’ve been sketching all my life, but I remember one particular point in time when I started consciously drawing and thinking of stories behind and all the scope visual images could affect. The year 2015. It was time when I got into an Instagram community of artists, and, step by step, was getting familiar with other people’s styles and stories. The huge and unlimited universe of human creativeness from all over the world has opened up to me. Should I say that I was overwhelmed and so much impressed?

During that period, I “met” on Instagram a person who made an indelible impression on me and turned my world upside down. An incredibly deep, mysterious, smart, and talented artist whose personality, I believe, profoundly altered the whole course of my artistic life. His approach to the process of creation was an example of responsibility and borderless fantasy. His style inspired me a lot and had a great influence on shaping my own (which I merely had until then).

Share your art, and maybe the story behind your work will change someone’s world or inspire and help rediscover their own style. Isn’t it a privilege?

How to be an imperfect artist drawing
“Always There, With You”, 2016

Be less serious about yourself and more self-ironic. No drama here.

Being less serious about yourself doesn’t mean being irresponsible. It rather stands for considering neither failures nor successes too seriously. These are transient things. Winning almost never provides eternal peace, and failure is hardly ever fatal, especially in art.

Just go with the flow and don’t stop. Let the river of creativity carry you! Focus on the process and consider this a journey in all its beauty and danger, and not a list of your failures and achievements or a success rate indicator.

Fail. And become stronger

If you are afraid of failing, then you probably will never get too far (unless you are an enormously lucky human). You cannot get better and stronger by avoiding difficulties and putting up with mediocrity.

Listen, if you stop procrastinating and thinking about perfection, you’ll really have a chance to leave something of yourself behind (because you will at least do something). Constant concern about not doing something well may be paralyzing. Overstep your fears. Make it a habit. I don’t mean becoming blindly or recklessly fearless. I just mean it isn’t a fear of real things (like a train rushing right at you or a poisonous spider under your shirt). Maybe you remember something from your childhood: like a big dog madly running after you and yourself – escaping like it is the last moment of your life (in my case it was a cow). Real gangster danger, huh? So, if you have this moment already behind your closed eyes, you can now realize how absurd the fear of someone not appreciating your work is.

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Be authentic

People love stories.

I think in our century we’re all starving for authenticity and honest simple stories of simple people, who live just as we do. We need it more than ever. What do I mean here? You don’t have to be a genius to tell the story (here, by story I mean a drawing or whatever you create – photography, music, dance, or cookies eventually) or a superhero to catch people’s feelings. And this is one of the good work criteriums, I think – catching people’s hearts. I’d say this is the main point.

And to make it work, you have to get involved, to begin with. In further steps, you should feel a real connection between yourself and the creation. If something you share is not that important to you and you feel indifferent about it – be ready for others to pass over it. I am convinced that nobody is truly interested in something superficial.

Being frank and sincere or putting personal intimate details into your work can be very risky, but this is where the real art begins. Be in close proximity to what truly matters to you. If needed – get deeper under your skin.

Art from deep feelings. If not this, maybe we would never know the inconceivably vivid van Gogh’s colors and fancy brushstrokes. We’d never admire the astoundingly expressive eyes of people on portraits by Rembrandt, never contemplate tense piercing faces of Greco’s figures or feel that unfathomable feeling that paintings by Claude Monet give you…

Courage to be an imperfect artist drawing
“Self-portrait”, 2016

I think there are enough plastic items and simulations on this planet. Let’s be brave creators and produce something truly pure and naturally imperfect.

Take a risk and draw something inconsistent with your personal brand consistency

I don’t want to duplicate the well-known, cheesy expression: “get out of your comfort zone”, but generally, yes, it’s… or it might be the case of that so-called “comfort zone”. I remember how radical and significant it seemed to me to just add color to my works… Dear me, in the scale of my life it felt like a revolutionary point.

There is an unlimited world of details and features. Investigate, mix, experiment, be spontaneous and enjoy it. Because this is why you are doing it, right? And to be “easier” with experimenting, we all definitely should follow the next advice…

Restless by Olga Uzun
“Restless”, 2017

Learn (watch) more

It is not necessarily about being aware of every piece of art ever created, and knowing biographies of the world’s renowned artists. It’s just about paying close attention to different approaches to art – from past centuries to the present day. Fortunately, there were and still are so many wonderfully creative people all over the world. We just have to always seek them out, investigate, observe, contemplate… And, of course, we need to constantly learn and improve ourselves. Not for someone’s approval and appreciation, but for expansion of our own boundaries and enrichment from the inside, for the sake of the most precise expression of things that we consider important. Great things never come from a combination of self-righteousness and ignorance.

At the very end, I would like to share the inspiring phrase belonging to an Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson which I accidentally ran into recently. It really amazed me.

Things go wrong and we celebrate it.

Everyone may interpret it in their own way, but this precisely sums up what I really wanted to say. Don’t hesitate to step into the dark and meet the unknown. It won’t always be something pleasant or great or worthwhile. It won’t always work in terms of how we expect it to work. Things may go “right” and go “wrong” (in fact, we could barely name the defining edge)…  But at least things go, not stagnate. It’s worth celebrating!

How to be an imperfect artist
“Escape the vicious circle”, 2019

You can find more illustrations by Olga in our Culture Book.

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