How Artistic Perfection Can Hold You Back

Yesterday, I was randomly thinking about a mass email I had to send at my last 9-5 job. I was on the finance team at an IT company and we were rolling out big changes to our billing system. I wrote an email to inform our clients about the changes–and I proofed the sh*t out of that email. I read it at least 30 times–and then I made my boss read it, and then I read it again.

If you know me at all, you are fully aware I am a worrier. I evaluate every single detail I can about a situation until I am too exhausted to take any sort of action. As I hovered over the send button on this email, my over-analysis paralysis was overwhelming. 

What if there is a typo? Did I screw something up? Is this change going to upset people? Should I word this differently? Is it clear enough? How is this going to bite me in the ass?

All those thoughts, worries, and nervous sweats and so little action. 

This situation is ridiculous. It was a single email with a limited audience–and I was laughing at myself when I remembered how anxious it made me. Right now, you might be wondering how this has anything to do with artistic perfection. Let me tell you, all of the anxious tendencies I had in an office setting transferred perfectly into my art business.

What does mental paralysis by perfection look like as an artist?

You should want to do your best when you work on your passion. It’s reasonable to worry about the quality of what you produce, but there are times when those worries will hold you back. Many many times.

Here are some examples of how how you can be held back:

  • Not moving onto the next work of art because you’re stuck on your current project.
  • Not posting on social media, because you don’t have the right caption, photo, or hashtags.
  • Not updating your following on events, sales, or new art.
  • Not applying for an event, because you don’t think your work is good enough yet.
  • Not connecting with other creators, because you don’t think you’re on their level.
  • Not promoting yourself.
  • Not making business cards.
  • Not pricing your work.
  • Not launching an online store or website.
  • Not accepting compliments.

My inaction often comes from my fear of not doing things the right way. The “perfect” way.

Perfection paralysis is a really simple formula. If you find yourself saying anything like: I can’t do X until I do Y. But Y also comes with it’s own barrier–then you might be trapped.

Like this:

“I can’t create an online store until I take nice photos, and I can’t take nice photos until I find a better camera, and I can’t get a better camera until I sell a piece of art to have the money for new equipment, but I can’t sell a piece of art until I have an online store, and good online stores aren’t free either.”

Perfection paralysis. But think about this for a second–

Perfection is Bullsh*t

Unless you are making bridges, buildings, or medical devices–perfection is a waste of time. Mainly because, perfection is subjective. It’s definition is different for everyone.

The best example for the subjective nature of perfection I can think of involves food. Ever sit down with friends or family for dinner and have one person think a meal is too salty and then someone else liberally add salt to their plate? Perfection is preference.

Redefine Perfection if you are a perfectionist

Are you constantly stuck by your need to keep tweaking a project? Maybe one more brush stroke here, or extra shading there. How much time do you spend evaluating what can be changed on your work? Or how often do you do nothing at all because you think you need different tools to even get started?

Start thinking about perfection as “The best I could do in this situation given my skill set and available resources”.

So if you want to start an online store, evaluate the resources you have available and where your skills are. Only have a smart phone camera and $5 in your checking account? Yeah, you can make a store with that. Sure, it may not fit your vision of perfection–but the goal is to get it done and move forward. End the perfection paralysis.

When you know you can do better, you still need to move onto the next project. You will continue to improve with each project you start and finish. If you never finish your current project and just keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking and tweaking, you deny yourself the opportunity to improve. If you ignore resources you currently have because you know there are better resources out there that you don’t have access to, you force yourself to stay still. No progress. No forward momentum.

When you are at the end of a project, as yourself: Is this the best you could do with your current skill set and resources?

If yes, it’s perfect–move onto the next project.

No? Well, it’s not perfect, but you should still move onto the next project. Take the lessons you’ve learned from that piece of art and apply it to the next. There comes a time where you have to say “It’s good enough” and hit send.  

Post that imperfect art on social media. Start that online store. Sign the corner of that piece you’ve been stuck on. Make business cards out of cardstock and your crappy printer, or paint a cute social media banner for customers to snap a picture. Do what you can with your current skill set and resources today.

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Does perfection ever hold you back? Do you have any tips for other creators on how to move forward? I’d love to hear from you!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

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Further Reading:

The Best Metallic Gold Ink and Paint for Fine Line Work

I have loved gold fine lining for years. My earliest frustrations of trying to find a good metallic paint pen occurred in 2009. I tried gel pens, calligraphy markers, oil based paint markers, and gold paint with the finest brush I could find. Paint markers ran out too fast or burped globs of ink on my work, working with a fine brush was time consuming, and gel pens just kind of suck in my opinion.

In the last two years, I have found my favorite products for metallic gold fine line work and now I can stop wasting my time and money (Hurray!). And of course I’m going to share my discoveries with you!

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

I’m going to go over three products:

FolkArt Craft Paint in a Fine Line Applicator

If you are looking for a product to apply fine metallic gold line work on top of acrylic paint on canvas, craft paint in a Fineline Precision Applicator may be perfect for you.

I use this Fineline Applicator for all of my acrylic line work. You can read more about it here. Basically, take your shimmery gold paint and squeeze it into the applicator bottle. If the paint is thick, add some water and shake, but often these craft paint brands are thin enough to squeeze out of the applicator as is.

See how I use it here:

You can find a lot of metallic acrylic paints out there. I’ve tried many brands and applied my gold lines with with a very fine brush, but craft paints often have more metallic shimmer to them in my opinion. Choose your preferred gold color and go to town!

Finetec Pearlescent Mica

This product is on my favorite supplies list for November 2019, but I have to gush more about it here. If you are looking for a super opaque metallic product to add on top of your work on paper surfaces, you have to try Finetec Mica Watercolors.

You can apply this product with a dip pen or brush. Each color comes in a solid pan, but all you have to do is wet the surface with water and rub a brush over the pan until the color starts to “melt”. Then you can apply the mixture to your pen tip or use a brush.

The end result is so fricken pretty. Look at that shimmer!

Winsor and Newton Gold Ink

Before I discovered Finetec Mica Watercolors, this Winsor and Newton ink was my favorite for embellishing my paper works. The ink is easy to apply with a brush or pen nib, and the end result beautifully shimmers when it catches the light.

I usually use either a Speedball Sketch Pen (Amazon) or my new Tachikawa Comic Pen (Amazon) to apply this ink. Before dipping your pen or brush, make sure to stir the bottle really well as the gold settles at the bottom. You will also want to stir the bottle frequently if using the ink for a long sitting. This is my biggest complaint with the product–the gold settles quickly.

But look at how it shines on this hand embellished print in my store:

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There you have it! My top three materials for creating metallic gold fine line work in my art. Have you used any products that you absolutely love? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments below while commenting is open.

If you enjoy learning about the supplies I use in the studio and want to know more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

My Favorite Art Supplies of the Month

November 2019

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a favorite supplies post! With Black Friday coming up this is the perfect time to add new materials to your holiday wish list and take advantage of upcoming sales. (I know Blick runs a lot of promotions!)

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see a lot of process videos pop up on my profile. Lately, I have been experimenting with acrylic inks, metallic mica watercolor pans, and a new dip pen on top of my usual watercolor inks (previous supplies post). Take a look and learn about the products I’ve been obsessed with lately!

Brushes and Pens

Dip Pen and Nibs

I am always excited to try new pens. I had been using this Speedball Sketch Pen set (Amazon) for a long time, but I wanted to try something new just for kicks. I found this blue grip Tachikawa pen on Amazon and love it! When you get new pens with metal nibs, it’s important to clean the protective coating off so your material sticks to the nib. I use a lighter to heat the nib then a paper towel to clean the surface. I pass the nib through the flame a few times. If your inks still don’t stick to the nib, repeat the heating and wiping process.

I use dip pens like this with a variety of media. If the substance can flow, you can probably try apply it with the pen.

  • Tachikawa Comic Pen and Nibs (Amazon)
Watercolor Brushes

If you have ever tried cheap packs of watercolor brushes, you know the pain of using inferior supplies. With acrylic brushes, you can get away with using really cheap synthetic bristles, but watercolor brushes are a little more nuanced. I haven’t gone too crazy with expensive brushes, but I did make a slight upgrade form a $7 pack of cheap AF watercolor brushes to these Utrecht brushes. They have synthetic bristles, and they hold their shape and quite a bit of water while working. They also don’t shed on your paper (yay!).

I use these brushes when applying traditional watercolors, watercolor inks, acrylic ink, and any other watery material when working on paper.

  • Utrecht 6150 R Size 10 Watercolor Brush (Dick Blick)
  • Utrecht 6150 R Size 4 Watercolor Brush (Dick Blick)

Metallic Embellishments

Finetec Artist Mica Watercolors

I cannot fully express how much I LOVE this product. I have worked with a lot of metallic art substances in my last 15 years of art making, and Finetec is my favorite metallic medium. FAVORITE. Why? Many reasons.

  • It looks amazing when applied as it catches the light beautifully.
  • It is super easy to work with. The pans are solid and you just need to wet the surface with water and a brush and rub until it turns viscous. Then you can apply it with a brush or dip pen (I deposit the mixture on my nib with the brush I used for stirring).
  • Since you can control the mixture with a pen or brush you don’t have to worry about metallic paint pens burping all over your paper.
  • It doesn’t smell like some oil based pens or liquid inks can.
  • Since it’s water-based, you could mix this into your watercolors for a tinted shimmer in your work.
  • When dry, it doesn’t smear or transfer any mica onto my hand.

I use this product on my paper surfaces only. I haven’t tried it on canvas or on top of acrylics.

Acrylic Ink

I bought this ink years ago and didn’t like it at first. Mainly because I didn’t really know what I was doing or how I wanted to use it. I put them in a drawer and forgot about them until a few weeks ago. Now I love this ink and want to go buy all the colors.

I love working with inks that are incredibly opaque. When I do fine lining, I don’t want my background colors to show through my line work. This acrylic ink has the opacity I prefer. You can apply it with a dip pen or a brush, but you can also use an airbrush or technical pen if you have it, making this ink versatile.

In the first video above, you can see this ink in action when I apply the blue lines. The white lines still use my favorite white ink, Dr. Ph Martin’s Pen White Ink (Amazon)

Paper

I use all of these products on paper surfaces. I like to keep things simple so I am still using the same Canson Watercolor paper as my base for most work. I cut my paper down to smaller sizes to avoid buckling and warping the paper, and I don’t overwork the surface so this budget option works great for me.

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And that’s it! I hope you feel inspired to try some new products!

If you enjoy learning about the supplies I use in the studio and want to know more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading: