the problem with pursuing perfection {a lesson from the masters}…

the masters

a life lived in fear is a life half lived*

* * *

i’ve always been a perfectionist: part nature, part nurture i suspect…

but i think the real motivation behind my constant pursuit of perfection is fear: a fear of failure, a fear of not being good enough &, worst of all, a fear of mediocrity…

whilst still a work in progress, i’m happy to report that yesterday marked a turning point for me & my fears & the lesson came from one of the least likely of sources: the respective exhibitions of messrs tim walker & valentino at somerset house…

it might sound counter-intuitive, but observing the brilliance of some masters at their craft actually instilled within me a renewed self confidence…

as well as their work in fashion {walker a fashion photographer & valentino, of course, a world-reknowned designer}, both of these prolific artists also share a pioneering spirit & have adopted their own techniques throughout their careers to make their creative visions a reality…

so i was thrilled to discover that both of their exhibitions afforded the rarest of glimpses behind the workings of their creative process…

in valentino: a master of couture this came by way of a display case filled with sample after sample of sketches by the master himself {some art in their own right, others less so}…

whilst in tim walker : story teller we were privy to a collection of note pages depicting hand-drawn story boards of an upcoming photoshoot…

of course there were many, much more brilliant & breathtaking aspects on display {& i’ll cover those more in depth another day}, but these two things stood apart for me in particular because in each case we were able to see the respective artist’s design process from its most embryonic of stages: the first draft…

at first i was surprised at the simplicity of some of their sketches & the seemingly hurried imperfection of it all: crude lines & unfinished pen strokes serving no doubt as a form of shorthand with which to hastily offload the myriad of ideas swirling around inside their heads…

i questioned whether or not valentino really did formulate some of his ideas on what looked like scraps of paper & was tim walker himself responsible for the naive drawings which looked more in keeping with the scribbled homework of a primary school student: were these chicken scratchings truly the springboard from which museum-worthy photography and couture were formed?

& then it dawned on me…

far from being integral in the creative process, the pursuit of perfection is actually the enemy of it…

the creative process is born of the hurried sketch & the hastened storyboard…

it flourishes with every outpouring of raw, uncontrived vision…

it is fed by the lack of self-editing & finesse…

if these artists had for even one second worried that their initial sketches & ideas were not good enough then the actual perfection that resulted many, many stages down the line would never have come to be…

& that’s the problem with the pursuit of perfection: it fosters fear & fear cripples & the end result really would be a story untold, a vision unrealised, a masterpiece never to be unveiled & indeed a life half lived…

{*an old spanish proverb adopted by director baz luhrmann & quoted in the movie strictly ballroom}

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7 thoughts on “the problem with pursuing perfection {a lesson from the masters}…

  1. Lovely sentiment. I agree, striving too hard can mean one tries to make everything look just so, rather than letting go and trusting a quick flourish to tell the story. The Tim Walker exhibition looks wonderful, thanks for the tip! Jane

  2. God that’s so true. The pursuit is often the downfall. While I am in no way as fabulous and talented as wither Tim Walker or Valentino (maybe to my mother 😉 I do think I’ve realized that the more I try and get in the way and make everything “perfect”, the harder a job I create for myself. The best thing I can do is get out of the way and stop “trying” to make it “perfect.” I’ve bought myself special notebooks specifically for scribbling down all those bursts of genius I expect to come to me, and then inevitably I end up with chicken-scratch-style scraps of paper strewn about my purse. Sigh. Both exhibits sound great, I hope you’ll do a post on them later!

  3. Oh my goodness you have to read Twyla Tharp if you haven’t already, it will really help you with this!

    Perfectionism is fear of failure, nothing more. The greatest thing I’ve learnt is that productivity trumps self-doubt. You just have to keep producing stuff and you get better and more confident each time. Perfectionism will stop you doing this.

    I was looking at something similar yesterday – Rita Konig’s NY apartment. The first photo shows how her flat looked originally, and unstyled – no nicer than mine really – then it shows how it looked once she’d put some effort in. Totally different but made me realise even her places don’t look great at first and look equally messy and unstyled for some of the time.

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/before-after-rita-konigs-sofa-91584

    Great post Sue xx

  4. Ah, as a former ‘perfectionist’ ( happy to relenquish the title) I can share that my creativity is now freely flowing.

    I’m soooo glad you had an ‘aha’ moment!

    The exhibition is on my list in Jan!

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