Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The gifts of imperfection

About a week ago I watched a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love.  She was talking about nurturing creativity, and one of the points she made that really resonated for me was around the use of the word "genius."

Apparently the original word was a sort of synonym for muse, or creative spirit; an artist was said to "have a genius," meaning that he was inspired by something outside himself.  But at some point we went from saying artists HAD geniuses to saying they WERE geniuses -- which becomes a terrible burden to carry.

One of the things I loved about photography was the fact that I had NOT been trained, did NOT impose my own sense of what was right on the images; they just sort of happened through the medium of my camera, drawn by something larger than my own limited creativity.  My only job was to become technically adept enough to capture whatever was supposed to sing through me.  Clearly the genius was outside of me, and that felt very safe, very freeing.

And now it's beginning to work that way with painting, too: this image, for example, came to me in a dream.  But I had to learn -- or teach myself -- some new techniques to actually bring it to fruition.  And, because I created it first as a photograph (for fear of losing the concept before I could paint it) I now understand that while the overall design came from outside somehow, what gives the painting its character is my own individual style (or lack thereof!); the brushstrokes that are my own unique attempt to execute what I saw in the dream.  It's not perfect -- it can't be --but it's actually the imperfections that make it sing.

Now.  If only we humans could internalize that.  Because we get so hung up on our own imperfections that we lose sight of the gift in the imperfections; the opportunity for learning they represent, and the way they have of making each of us uniquely -- and endearingly -- individual.


Cheryl said...

Yeah it's sometimes the negative space in the photo that creates the interest and how you use the negative space. This painting I like....thank you

Bill DeLanney said...

Thank you for this post. Image is beautiful. Whole concept of Wabi-Sabi.