Art used to stress me out.
As a kid, I would make little drawings or doodles of things I saw. Whether it was the knick-knacks on my nightstand, photos from the magazines in our mailbox or the flowers growing outside our house, I loved capturing these bits of beauty in my everyday life.
I have fond memories of proudly showing parents and siblings my work. In turn, they encouraged me to pursue art as I grew older—so I did.
I took art classes all of middle and high school, but there came a point where I started to lose my joy in creating art. My mind became too focused on the outcome and technicalities of what I was making. Soon enough, art became yet another thing on the list of activities that made me anxious.
Coming up with an idea of what to draw or paint was a pressure that would make my heart beat fast and only got worse when I had to put pen to paper. I felt the need to make every stroke and every line I made perfect.
There was the problem — I was trying too hard to make my art perfect.
In college, despite my hesitancies, I knew I should give art another chance. It was something I once loved doing and comforted me when life began to feel like too much. When I added a summer painting class after sophomore year, Foundations in Painting, I was hopeful to get back to that mindset.
This painting class was such a welcoming space to be a part of, and it was where I learned to let myself fail with art.
During class, our professor, Yvette Gellis, encouraged us to experiment and make bad paintings. In her own words, “Art is supposed to be enjoyable.” We had complete freedom to mess up, use bolder colors or try any idea that seemed like it would ruin the piece.
It was clear our professor didn’t expect or want perfection, so I loosened up my mindset on painting and let my art be bad. It was so freeing. I allowed myself to take leaps of faith in my painting strokes and artistic choices because I realized it was all going to be OK if I did.
Since then, I added art as my academic minor and am finding my own unique art style in my current drawing class. I never thought I could find my own art style, but once I let myself fail, I found it. Not only that, I was able to find joy in art again.
I am still learning to apply this to other aspects of my life, like my writing, classes and public speaking. All the activities that scare me because I get stuck in perfecting them.
Most students can relate to the perfectionist mindset, but there’s times when you have to let yourself mess up and take risks with what you’re doing. Those are the moments when you realize that there is joy in imperfection.
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