My view of art is purely conceptual. The value of artistic expression is not found in beauty or technique, but in the message behind it. In the thousands of pieces I’ve been fortunate to admire in person at international galleries, I have taken the most meaning from pieces that are not traditionally beautiful, but impress upon the viewer raw and powerful emotion. The artist did not sit down at their easel and say to themselves: “Ok, this has to be just so. I can’t make a mistake. I can’t mess up this canvas. I can’t make something ‘unpretty’ ” They were not concerned about technique or aesthetics. The focus was turning the intangible into something tangible. The focus was art at its purest form: passion.
I volunteer teaching art to under-privileged teen girls, and one of the first tools I give them for self-expression is a creative journal. When I distribute the bags containing a brand new sketchbook and a few other materials, their eyes go wide with wonderment. They are very excited about having brand new art supplies of their very own.
Too often, upon thumbing through the crisp new pages of their sketchbooks, I hear one mutter “Oh, my gosh, I don’t want to do anything in it. I don’t want to mess it up or make a mistake!” This statement makes me cringe inside every time. The purpose of a creative journal isn’t to make something pretty or perfect. The purpose is expression and recollection. The ability to work through emotions and situations using images, colours, paints, and words.
If you are inhibited by a fear of making something ‘unpretty’, you will never reap the benefits of any creative medium. Be it a creative journal, or other artistic forms such as, painting, dance, photography, etc. If you are the person who sits in front of a blank page, pen in hand, and the thought of actually putting that pen down in fear of creating something less than the perfect vision in your mind gives you anxiety- I have some exercises and suggestions to help you.
Sit down with a sketchbook or a fresh clean piece of paper. Pick up a big black pen. Pen, not pencil. Poise the tip of the pen on a clean bright page. Now think of a scenario in your recent past. Something that really angered or frustrated you. Let the inhibitions go. Now, think through the progression of your feelings in that situation, all the while, allowing your hand to guide the pen across the page without looking at what you’re doing. If you feel your hand leave the page, do not open your eyes. Just guide the pen back to the paper and keep going. Keep your hand moving as you think about it. Jaggedy lines, swooping lines, flowing lines, repeating lines, just let it happen as you continue to focus on your thoughts. The focus should be your feelings, and not the act of drawing.
Now, same page, same instructions, but think about something that really makes you happy. This new drawing will intercept and overlap the previous drawing.
When you are finished, open your eyes and look at the page. What a godawful mess huh? But guess what? You just created a piece of art at the most basic form. Pure conceptual art through emotion using ink and paper as medium. Congratulations! Does it feel liberating? Frustrating? Own that feeling and use it to move forward and create.
Perhaps you feel the inclination to build off your artistic mess like I did. If so, choose a medium that you are comfortable with, and go at it with abandon.
There is a book that I highly recommend to those who struggle with letting go of the pursuit of perfection. Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes is full of prompts, which in the end results in the utter destruction of the book.
You are capable of letting go of your artistic inhibitions. Your journal might end up looking like mine. With wrinkles, and dog-eared pages, and tears, and loose sheets. And to me, that’s perfection. The unpretty is so pretty.
She worked as an Interior Designer in Calgary until her passion for art overwhelmed her desire for wealth and fame.When she is not chasing after her two young kids, she is teaching art to teen girls in need and creating dolls for her small handcrafting business, Lil’Zo.
Bri believes that art is a powerful outlet, and many internal issues can be confronted, exposed, and resolved by simply letting go and allowing oneself to be creative – even if they don’t believe they are the ‘creative type’. Everyone can benefit from getting over their fears, and simply putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, click a shutter, put hands on clay, or whatever medium one chooses. Find her online here.