For a long time when people asked who my favourite artist, idol or inspiration was I had nothing to say. I didn't have anyone who inspired me and no favourite artist. I am not saying I didn't think someone was awesome. Or that when I looked at some artist's work I didn't feel that it was beautiful and I wanted to make artwork like that. But I quickly forgot about them. And their name. They might be successful and the best at their work but I either didn't remember them or they didn't motivate me enough to feel like they were my favourite or inspired me even if I loved their work a lot.
Things have changed now though. Back then I used to look at artists who were far ahead on the learning curve than me and hence their art was better because along the line they had learned newer skills and got more practice than me not just because they probably worked more but also because of the sheer number of years they had been working. Of course back then I also didn't see things the way I do now. It never occurred to me that the reason they were perfect is because they had practiced and gradually learned skills over the years.
To me they were perfect. Kind of like they were born with talent and perfect. I didn't think about it consciously and I knew this is silly but once you omit the idea that they practiced that's what is left. This was very anxiety provoking for me because they were this good at my age and I am not. I kind of imagined that the moment I put pen to paper my art will turn out the way I had imagined it and when that didn't happen I got anxious. Because I hadn't been able to do it. My instructors had always worked in stages. Not even attempting to make a finished artwork in the first go. They even gave homework in stages. Never expected the finished artwork as the first assignment. But I didn't learn much from this. I didn't take it to heart that I don't have to be perfect at first attempt.
In fact, one instructor even said that we should practice before we even started attempting to make the artwork if we needed to. This helped me a lot. I started practicing what I imagined and it helped me have fun making it. But this was still not enough.
I knew that the idea that I had to be perfect or I couldn't show my work to people or that I could not have any mistake in my work was paralyzing me. I had to see more art that was still incomplete (I didn't usually see that). So I decided to consciously start looking for people who were learning or who didn't do perfect work or work in progress from people who did awesome art instead of what I considered "perfect" finished artwork to convince myself that imperfection was acceptable or didn't matter.
But when I found the people that inspired me I realised it was not just acceptable but even charming. Since perfection is impossible, imperfection means you are being real. That's why it's so beautiful.
The first person who inspired me is the artist Will Terrell. I wouldn't say I don't put his artwork in the category of what I call "perfect" but he is my favourite because of how positive, non-judgemental and cheerful he is. In one video he talks about how he became an artist and essentially accepts that he was arrogant when he was learning. And that his art was crappy. And that people told him his art is crap and he should quit trying. That he is only an artist because he was stubborn and that they were right (when they said he was bad at art). I like that he is someone who is clearly willing to accept his mistakes, willing to change and tell the world he is flawed. And I love him for that.
The second person is Brene Brown. I love her for writing a book about shame and vulnerability, Daring Greatly. In the book she talks about how important authenticity and vulnerability are. I don't always get what she says but her books have still helped me a lot. That is when I started to truly realise perfectionism wasn't really getting me anywhere and it was her book where I read that a perfectionist is not someone who can achieve perfection, like a lot of people including me assume, but someone who believes it is possible and something we should try to achieve or we are worthless. What it also thought me that shame, hiding vulnerability and authenticity were connected to perfectionism. Perfectionists are ashamed of making mistakes and being imperfect. And since no one is perfect that means you can't be authentic because then you would have to let people know you are imperfect. And if you can't achieve perfection the only way to go is to hide them. And if you can't accept your flaws you can't accept that there is something wrong because your life is supposed to be perfect hence vulnerability is also out of the window.
I still needed convincing though. 25 plus years' worth of habits don't go away in a moment. I started looking for more artists. It was easier for me to give up perfection on the emotional front because I never believed it so seriously in my personal life but not so much when it came to my profession. I found the illustrations by David Tazzyman. And I love how his illustrations are childlike. But they are still beautiful. I love them. He along with a few other examples showed me that art is not beautiful because it's perfect or it represents the world one hundred percent correctly but because it tells a story. That it didn't matter if I wasn't the best, most skilled artist yet. I was good enough as long as I could tell a story. In the meantime it's ok that I am still learning.
And finally, Katy Bowman. She is a Biomechanist whose book Move Your DNA inspired me to change my lifestyle. I really care about my health but I hate gymming or exercising without something I can accomplish with it right now like walking to the grocery store. I hate exercising for its sake. It's boring. So I don't have to do what I don't feel like doing, also because it's natural to not want to do this. I don't have to beat myself up and call myself lazy. I also realised how the small things we do for our daily routine can actually be a good workout if we are willing to give up all the things that make our job "easier". I have a lot to say about this particular part but that's for another post.
I also like that she is really authentic. It comes off in her book and her podcast. She doesn't mind letting her flaws show. Or the imperfect silly pictures on her website meant to explain stuff. What she cares about is getting her point across and she does it better than articles with perfectly professional looking diagrams. That's all that matters. Getting your point across as best as you can. She also said at the end of one of her blog posts, "I have been known to be wrong". I instantly fell in love with her again. So many people with expertise in a field find it so hard to admit that they make mistakes and never accept them or at least not until too late, if at all.
Basically what I love about all of them is authenticity and the willingness to let their flaws and imperfections be known. Because that's the kind of inspiration I needed. I don't feel that anxiety anymore about getting perfect now not just personally but with my art as well which is a far bigger deal for me because I can forgive myself for being imperfect but not imperfect work, not from others, just myself. Now I have more fun drawing than I ever did and I don’t care if it's not perfect. I still love it regardless of that.