100 little faces, and struggling with perfectionism

55 into what will eventually be 100 small original ACEO paintings, more specifically – little faces or, what I’ve started calling ‘the shrunken head series.’ ^__^

EDIT 9/3 – All 100 are finished now, and are available for $20 apiece in the etsy shop!

The last time I went to Daniel Smith (I rarely go, it’s far too full of gorgeous art supplies, it breaks my heart) I found this interesting, cheap little set of “Authentic Chinese Watercolors,” made by Yasumoto, “to be used with Chinese and sumi ink” – and I couldn’t resist bringing it home with me. I suspected they’d be just ordinary watercolors, but I love, love love these more than I expected! The consistency of the paint is like watercolor, but they go on rather like gouache, and can be made quite opaque if needed. Compared to normal watercolors, they dry more water water-resistant, and are slightly glossy. Colors like light blue or red show up over pitch-black sumi ink. Kind of a watercolor-gouache-acrylic compromise that pulls together all the things I enjoy from each!

So, I started this series exclusively using this paint to play and experiment.

I find it quite difficult to go into painting without a pencil sketch (quite retentive that way), so this is also a challenge to weaken my terrible habit of being such an obnoxious perfectionist.

I don’t actually consider myself a perfectionist. I feel like perfectionists keep working till they have something perfect, and so I’m kind of like a lousy perfectionist. I make lots of crappy drawings and messy mistakes. But the problem is the mindset that tells me I know exactly what constitutes as “good” or “bad.” And more importantly, for us artists, what your art “can,” and “cannot” end up being. I – and I know I’m not alone here – so easily get stuck in the box of “my art looks like this,” “my art should look like this,” “I can’t do that yet, haven’t learned how to yet, so I’ll wait to do that thing until I’ve mastered it” – that last one is really crippling, if you think about it. Like how I’ve never even tried to make a cheese souffle, as yummy as they sound (never had one) – because I’ve never done it before and don’t know how. Silly!

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that this exercise – setting some specific parameters (size, medium, number, loose theme) – and just getting on with it – is very liberating. Freedom can be deadly to an artist (oh, all the possibilities! I could do a sculpture or performance or teeny paintings on toenail clippings!). It’s so easy to put off making work – and enjoying – it because of the hangups we have about how it will turn out, and how we want to spend our time making the perfect thing, expressing the perfect idea. Play. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, though you’ll probably find it will be, once you get started. Allow yourself the space to surprise yourself.

While working on these, day one I spent outside on the deck, day two inside on the floor in front of the TV watching TED talks. And among those, I stumbled across Kathryn Shulz, and her talk, “On being wrong.” It’s relevant, funny, pointed, and worth pondering. If you have a few extra minutes, do take a look:

I need to remind myself all the time of how stuck I get in my head. How do you guys (artists, non-artists) keep your minds breathing and healthy and happy? Please share! And have a happy weekend!!!

31 thoughts on “100 little faces, and struggling with perfectionism

  1. these are so beautiful, cannot wait to see more! And I loved the ones Mall did too! The colours are so vibrant, I must look out for these watercolours ! And … I’m not sure how I keep a healthy mind, I’m not sure if my mind even is healthy 🙂 Spending time with people helps though, I suppose. and talking out any issues, doing simple things, reading and drinking tea, occasionally going to cafés and having hot chocolate with cream ❤

    • Thanks, Elysia. You’ve been churning out an admirable flow of work lately – I love seeing your comics come together. I agree with the hot chocolate with cream bit – so excited for the weather finally getting cool enough for this to become more common!

  2. They all look so fantastic! I struggle with perfectionism too. For me it’s about having my lines look smooth and ‘perfect’ and things being anatomically correct. I admire people who have a naive style and I find it so hard to just let go and draw something a little off.
    I’m not really sure what I do to keep my mind happy. I think going outside helps to clear the head, it’s not something I do very often though as I’m very much a homebody!

    • Thank you so much, Niina. I second your ‘smooth and perfect lines’ obsession – and also love of naive art. When I see artists who can mix and combine the two, it’s pure magic!! Also, color is super tricky for me. I love your sense of color, and how bright and happy your creations are.
      I’m also quite the homebody. Even in the summer – I’m like a small burrowing creature, feeling much safer indoors. Gotta break that habit!

  3. your little faces are beautiful. love seeing them all laid out like that. your idea of some “rules” and just getting on with it is so right and so simple. just need to convince my brain of that. i’ve been recently trying very hard to just play while creating (doesn’t that sound like a contradiction?) so far, trying something new, playing in a new way seems to require turning a deaf ear to the inner critic and lots of sunshine, good music and copious amounts of sweet tea. awesome post.

    • Hi Lisa – thank you for leaving your thoughts on this! Somewhere along the line, I we pick up the idea that ‘playing’ is counter to being productive, and that it is a waste of time (if you’re playing/having fun, you should be doing something else). “Sunshine, good mucic, copious amounts of sweat tea” – sounds like a good time!

  4. these are just gorgeous. I can’t wait to see them all when the series is complete. and those Chinese watercolours sound like the perfect paints, I always find when I’m using watercolours that the colours get too weak or just don’t turn out as bright as I’d like, but your paintings are looking great.

  5. oooooh i want them all!!! loving all the colour. looks amazing. As for keeping a healthy mind, i just try to think of all the things i am grateful for, i know it sounds kinda sickly, but it really works for me, puts things in perspective.

    • Oh, sweet! I love both pinterest and craftgawker. Thank you, Kira. …though I find myself easilly being sucked into spending most of my work time engrossed in other peoples’ work … I call it research!

  6. absolutely AMAZING. i tend to get stuck in a ‘style’ of drawing thats always abstract, ive been in a black and white phase but your collection is adorable and already has given me a few ideas for colorful pieces thank you

  7. They’re so cute! You inspired me to make something like this. I agree with the freedom part. Sometimes I cannot decide what I should do because they’re so many possibilities! I should choose the “best” one right?
    I think I’ll try to make some mini paintings too!

  8. Hi Stasia,
    I came to your blog through an etsy treasury we were both featured and of course, I was extremely impressed by your art, even more so by your musings.

    As for getting my mind of stuck-mode, nature seems to do wonders for my creativity as well as quieting down and just “watching the wheels go round and round”.

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