Perfectionists Don't Make Good Painters

For Christmas, my mom gave me a coupon to an art class at a local studio, Spirited Art. I went on Monday with my friend Katrina, and it was so much fun! I learned a lot about painting, but I also had plenty of time to talk with Katrina.

When we arrived at the studio, we had some time to look at all the paintings that have been done by... people... I don't know. The staff, other newbies like us, Monet, Van Gogh? Whoever it was, the paintings were impressive. As was the huge color wheel made from paint chips. (I bet that was so much fun to put together.)

You chose your class based on the painting you want to do. There was a full wall calendar set up so we could preview the upcoming month. (Katrina's done the Knoxville skyline you see on the 18th and her painting was amazing!)

When class started, we began with the outline of the painting. The girl teaching the class had traced these out for us to save time. Can you see the faint pencil marks?

I took pictures in between each step of our painting so that I can remember later how we did this. I've never done a painting that required blending or layering colors, so this was all new to me.

Even in the beginning stages, I struggled with my tendency to be a perfectionist. The first thing I noticed when I got the canvas? The lines to the door and the porch aren't straight. For the rest of the night, that bugged me. And as we brushed our gold paint over the canvas, I tried so hard to make the strokes even and the amount of paint balanced. (Clearly, that didn't happen.)

With every step of this painting, I worried and I stressed that it didn't look "right". Not only were the lines not straight, the shading on my porch didn't look like a real porch.

As I painted the horizontal lines to create the wall, I struggled to make those lines perfectly straight and even. But I didn't have time to do anything about my imperfect lines before the teacher moved on to the next step, so they stayed as-is.

Blending quickly became my worst nightmare. Was there too much gray? Not enough gray? Did it blend into the brown? Did it look realistic? Again, (and thankfully) the teacher moved to the next step before I could make my painting worse by trying to fix it.

With each added color, I asked those same questions: too much gray? not enough? Sometimes to myself in my head, sometimes out loud to Katrina. Every time I asked, she assured me that it looked great. And then she'd ask me if her painting looked okay, to which I would respond-- "It looks great!"

(This is why you need friends when you try new things.)

(You should have seen me when I was directed to put blue on my porch. "Blue?! Who's porch is blue?!" But then I told myself to shut up and I did it.)

This painting was good for me. I've always wanted to learn to paint an actual picture. The paintings I usually do are words-- easy, one color, perfectionist-driven paintings. Paintings that take me months as I tediously make every line perfect. Paintings that aren't messy or smudged in any way, but are also boring in that respect.

I tried, one night, to make myself "just paint". Take a blank canvas and some paint and go to town. See what happens.

It was not good. I ended up painting a pattern of straight strokes in different colors. That was as 'free-spirited' as I got.

So this painting was good for me. It was good in that I learned some techniques for painting, but it was better for me in that I was forced to create this painting quickly. There was no time to fix lines, no time to make even strokes. No time to be perfect. Just enough time to paint. Just enough time to add 'burnt sienna' to the wooden walls before moving on to highlights in the top corner of the door.  (We were not actually rushed, mind you. The class lasted 2.5 hours. But for me, this was warp speed.)

After this class, I feel like I've accomplished something. In a very small way, I've relaxed those perfectionist tendencies I have. I've made myself come to grips with the fact that this painting is far from perfect, but I can still love it. That I don't have to make something perfect in order to be proud of it.

I'm trying to make this realization come about in other areas of my life as well. My house doesn't have to look perfect in order to be a home. My cooking doesn't have to be perfect in order to cook for others. My relationship with God doesn't have to be perfect in order to teach middle schoolers about Him. I don't have to be a perfect person before I have kids so that I can be the perfect mother (crazy, but sometimes I find myself striving for this). On the same note, Deric and I don't have to have the perfect relationship in order to one day be good parents.

God isn't looking for perfect. He knows it is impossible for me to be perfect and I'm thankful that He doesn't expect it from me.

All He wants is for me to do my best with the resources He's given me, and He'll do the rest.



  1. I can sooooo resonate with you!!! Apples don't fall far from trees.

    Your painting is great and you FINISHED it! Sometimes our pursuit of perfection gets in the way of accomplishing anything! However, I like to call that a learning process, it's my way of justifying half-finished projects all over the house.

  2. And yet, yours turned out AWESOME! I love that you chose this one for us! I wouldn't have. I want to see the rest of the pictures... I really want to recreate that one with the bridge. And I don't like the one of us you posted! (at least my hair) What's your schedule look like next weekend? Painting party?