Lessons From Art


I ran across a quote about creating art almost two decades ago that has stuck with me and that I have applied to my life in general:

"You have to be willing for it to look bad . . . before it looks good."

I wish I had noted where I read it so I could credit the originator like I almost always do. I didn’t with this one, so just know that I am not claiming to have said it.

But I have lived it.

When I first began messing around with watercolors, I quickly became frustrated because what I envisioned in my head I could not create on the paper beneath my brush. And even after taking art classes from a wonderfully talented artist, I still struggle with that transfer (from head to paper). The impatience with myself may stem from the perfectionistic bent I have begun to observe. I know very well that perfection is not among the characteristics of mankind. We can reach for excellence . . . but that’s as far as we can stretch ourselves. Perfection belongs to the Perfect One, and Him alone. I am trying to just breathe as I paint and wait for the appearance of something close to what I am longing to see.

I am experiencing the same struggle with my writing. Instead of having “writer’s block,” I suffer from “writer’s bombardment.” I have had to create a master list of topics that I want to write about so that I don’t let them slip away. I have pages of notes on some of them, which, at this preliminary stage, are “looking bad.” That process of going from an idea to notes and then to the initial draft is as painful for me as those early brushstrokes of paint on paper. When I envision my finished product (an article, a Morning Page, or the manuscript for a book), I want so badly to be able to get to the “looking good” stage without going through this painful experience of “looking bad.” But for me, it does not happen.

I’m thinking that this process is one of those universal principles that I have begun to see. It seems to be true of our physical development, our emotional progress, our relational experiences, etc.

I hope at some point I can embrace the process and find my joy in that embrace.