I am a perfectionist. Not an amateur perfectionist whom merely dots every “i” and crosses every “t”; I’m a pro whom makes sure that the dot above the “i” is perfectly round and the cross through the “t” extends out evenly on both sides. And to be sure, I zoom into the letters at 6400% in Illustrator just to check. It’s always served me well as a production artist, where exactitude and methodical perfectionism are mandatory for creative deliverables. It has, however, hampered me as an artist and illustrator.
I’ve always been a left-brained artist, not so much “creative” as technical. I don’t look to blow people away with out-of-the-box thinking; I just look to tantalize eyes with aesthetically-resonate artwork. Of course, artists are more animal than calculator, and in the past, I’ve had to fight against this perfectionism. In art school, I quickly became proficient in realistic oil painting, but the slow tediousness drove me crazy, and I took up watercolors just to have a degree of lost control. And as much as I love conceptual and quirkily-executed art, my pen always looks for the straight line and the 90-degree angle, which is why the sketch featured here, a “bad” drawing, is for me a good drawing.
Much about this coffee cup, quickly scrawled in about ten minutes, is wrong, or in the lingo of perfectionism, “bad”. The proportions and perspectives are wrong, the circles on the lid are not concentric, and much of the detail is not perfectly recreated in relation to size, placement, and detail. But then again, how often do you think about the perspective of your coffee cup, the concentricity of the circles on the lid, or the placement of the most finite details? Instead, as you sip your overpriced coffee, you may just catch glimpse of the warnings around the cup lid, the corrugation of the cardboard sleeve, or the graphics here and there.
Perfectionism may be fine for InDesign layouts of a government proposal documents and branded marketing campaigns, but for sketchbook drawing, you have to decide where and when to halt perfectionism. For this drawing, all that really matters are the details that are unique to the subject, essentially telling its unique story. And I’ve always felt that when art like this goes wrong, it’s really just taking on a life of it’s own, and this is when it truly becomes alive. So if you’re a hopeless perfectionist like me, then buy a cheap sketchbook and draw badly, also known simply as “drawing”.
And drink more coffee!