I suppose I could blame it on the previous week. My back was still sore. I was feeling poopie about some of the things with my job in general. The cats got me up early and I was kind of tired.
Whatever the reason, I would think it is pretty safe to describe Saturday as a “less-than-inspiring” day.
We all have them I suppose. But most people don’t put their creative lives out here on the internet every day for all to see. After almost three years of doing so, and nearly 950 posts under my belt, you would think I would be used to not only showing off my triumphs, but also my tragedies. But I don’t know if I will ever get used to that.
I hid out yesterday and couldn’t bring myself to post. I felt so crummy about the piece (yes – only one piece!) that took me ALL of Saturday to produce and I couldn’t even think of posting it here for all the world to see. Perhaps if I were still in 5th grade I would have had the right to be proud of it, but as a “professional designer” (and I use that term mockingly!) it just didn’t make the cut.
Perhaps it was due in part as to how well the scroll sawn masks came out. After hurting my back, it was much easier for me to draw on the computer and cut at the scroll saw than to paint. When my injury occurred, I was in the middle of making a set of Halloween masks (painted) for my painting customers and to hopefully offer to wholesale kits and add to that side of the site. The way I sit when I paint though proved to be painful and I was easier (for now) to switch to doing the scroll sawn version of the pattern for the scrollers and put the painting on the side for the time being.
But now I was feeling better, and unfortunately I lost that rhythm and wave of thought that I had regarding the painted pieces. I felt bland about the project in general, and the inspiration just wasn’t there. But I needed to push the pile forward, so I spent most of Saturday attempting to do so. The results I thought were somewhat of a disaster.
One of the first indications was how long it took me to get started. I milled around the house doing every chore I could think of from cleaning out the microwave to cleaning the cat box. I find that when I am unsure of my direction, I ‘notice’ things around the house that need attending. This busy work buys me a temporary reprieve from actually doing the task at hand and is a very effective (and somewhat justifiable) way to waste a day. After all, these things NEED to be done, don’t they?
I am almost ashamed to admit how long it took me to achieve the unimpressive result. Let’s just say it took much longer than normal. The amount of struggling with each stroke from my paintbrush only seemed to make that time longer, but I forged ahead.
When I was finished, I turned to Keith who was sitting across the couch from me drawing another remarkable design and asked what he thought.
The look on his face spoke volumes.
If your best friend can’t be honest with you, then they really aren’t your friend. I tried to remember that as I watched his face as he saw the piece. While we don’t always agree on what we like and dislike (opposites attract after all) there was no doubt in my mind that he was not impressed at all by this and that my first inclination was confirmed.
It was indeed ugly.
He was kind in his rejection. But I could see him searching for something positive to say about it and having difficulty. As a teacher, we are ourselves taught to always try to find some good in your student’s piece, no matter how hideous. For this piece, it was a particularly difficult challenge to do so. Finally, he muttered something like “Well, every hit can’t be a home run!” or something of that nature, and at that moment, while I was bitterly disappointed at the confirmation of the monstrosity, I truly admired and loved him for his honesty. For it is honesty that I needed from him, not appeasement. And I knew in my own heart that this piece wouldn’t even pass the “looks good if you are traveling past it at 20 miles per hour” standard that my painting girls used to use for substandard results. Even if you looked at it while flying by on the Concord, it would still look like crap.
So I put away my paints. And I sulked. And I played some games on my computer for the rest of the night. And I skipped writing yesterday because if I began typing, it may have been a sort of resignation from designing. (Not really, but I felt like it!)
But I am not a quitter. I have been through too much in my life to let a little thing like this defeat me. After all, it was a small 4 inch piece of plywood. And a couple of bottles of paint. And I like color. And I like pushing color around with a brush to make things look cool. So I wasn’t going to let this hiccup in my thought process stop me.
I got back on the proverbial horse and started over. And things got better.
It wasn’t easy to keep going, but I had to stop thinking of the past and move ahead to something completely different. I began with trepidation, but soon I began to feel that dread lifting and I began enjoying what I was doing again. I had a couple of scary moments, but I was able to push through them and in the end, I felt much better about what I painted.
After the first piece was done yesterday, I once again held it up for Keith to see, and this time his reaction was one of encouragement and approval. “Now that’s better!” he said. My heart soared. Not because I needed his approval, but because I knew within myself that it WAS better and more along the lines of what I was thinking.
I went on to paint two additional designs yesterday. All the while, I was planning the next several pieces. The floodgates were opening once again and things were moving in a positive direction. I finished the day with half of the set of 12 pieces done, but with ideas for the subsequent pieces pretty clear in my head.
I realize that everyone has different tastes, and I also realize that you may or may not like these designs. That’s OK. It is what makes the world so wonderfully diverse and beautiful. But as a designer, I think it is important to like our own work and what we are doing, or we will never be able to convince others that our work is good. It is difficult enough trying to ‘sell’ work that we like. Doing so with pieces we think are not up to our standards is pretty much impossible, no matter what others tell us.
I am glad Keith told me when he didn’t like the piece. It strengthens my trust in him and I know that he wasn’t trying to be cruel, but trying to help me do my best work. And that is the best kind of partner anyone could have.
As for the “dud” – I think I will keep it around, only to remind me that everything that I do isn’t always easy. Some things take a bit more work to make my vision become a reality. But ‘settling’ isn’t an option and when I fail, I need to get right back at it and try again. It is essential to grow and progress.
Have a great Monday!
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"