Depending on how you see it, a crooked line on a canvas can be just that – a crooked line. But for perfectionist artists, especially if that crooked line is their own creation, it’s more than that.
And often, it isn’t just one crooked line that an artist sees as a flaw in his or her painting.
It could be an accidental blotch of paint, a misplaced subject that is a few millimetres off from its intended position, or a watercolour painting that has too many layers and is all muddy instead of vibrant.
Perfectionism can be a major source of frustration in art. If a painting doesn’t turn out the way the artist wants it to, is it better to carry on or start all over again? How does an artist decide when their work is complete?
To gain some insight, I asked two local artists to share their views. One of the artists is Dizah Hamzah, who said, “Regarding the perfectionism topic, I’m guilty of doing so too many times.”
Dizah has always enjoyed drawing for as long as she can remember. She does both traditional and digital art, and also dabbles in clay modelling in her spare time.
While she has completed a fair share of art pieces as seen on her Instagram page (@dizahh.bn), she also has several incomplete works.
“I tend to abandon an artwork because I think it’s not good enough. Worse thing is, sometimes I get demotivated because of it,” she said. “Personally, I think it’s better to abandon it if you’ve completely lost interest in a particular artwork. You can always start over! There’s no point in continuing when your heart is just not into it.”
Dizah recently stumbled upon some of her unfinished works, and said she feels differently about her art now compared to back then.
“It didn’t look as bad as I thought. Sometimes I think an artwork can look great too even if it’s incomplete,” she said.
As viewers, we only see the finished product. We don’t see the amount of effort and revisions that go into a piece of art. How does an artist decide it’s time to put their paintbrush aside?
“I think it depends on the artist. I guess a painting is complete when the artist is happy and satisfied with how it turned out,” she said.
Dizah considers a piece complete when she manages to express the idea in her mind onto the canvas.
Given how subjective art is, there’s always a possibility that a person may interpret a piece of art differently than intended but Dizah said she doesn’t mind.
“For me, it’s fine if it’s interpreted differently.
Art is open to each individual’s interpretation,” she added.
Another artist, Aisyah Hashim, said art is a way for her to express herself during her alone time and when she’s having bad days.
She commonly uses acrylic and watercolour in her paintings, some of which are posted on her Instagram page (@inkedbyaisyah), and she occasionally experiments with digital art.
“Sometimes people don’t see my mistakes until I point it out and tell them,” said Aisyah.
Rather than focussing on making the perfect piece, Aisyah focusses on self-improvement.
She views the flaws in her paintings as “beautiful mistakes”, and from there, she works her way through to improve and complete her painting.
“I believe some artworks that end up as ‘not perfect’ are part of the process and learning curve.
“I suggest turning this perfectionism to something that can empower you – to be better at your own art style, rather than pursuing what is perfect,” she said.
Normally, Aisyah would take a three-day break from her painting before she says to herself, “It’s alright, what can be improved?” and then she continues to paint.
Sometimes, when she returns to her painting after taking a break, she’d find herself not minding the mistakes as much as she used to. “Not so bad,” she said.
Other times, she adds more layers to her acrylic painting.
“I always constantly find myself asking this – when will I know this piece is done? For me, it’s definitely that feeling, when you look at it and say, ‘Yup, that’s it’.”
This can go both ways, positive or negative – either she loves the painting or she’s “okay” with it.
Even if it doesn’t work out, Aisyah agrees that it’s part of the learning process.
“Being an artist, it’s important to set your mind and heart that you are constantly learning.
“And to compare to others is a big no. That’s what makes your art style unique.”