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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Release Perfectionism through Abstract Art

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Yesterday I submitted an application for a local Artist Residency program (fingers crossed!), and the part about submitting a portfolio really made me reflect on my history as an artist and creator. I no longer have many of my pieces from my college and post college years which breaks my heart a bit, but a lot was lost over time unfortunately. I would love to look back on some of my work and see how much I've changed and developed over the years. I remember spending hours on meticulous details in portraiture, two of my favorite musicians/drawings coming to mind- Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews. A metal sculpture created out of spoons, wheel frames, wire, nuts and bolts of figures dancing in metal rain drops while spinning around on the wheels, it was a joyous little sculpture that I just adored. I think of the clay bust I created of a woman's face in a tormented scream (I remember my mom asking if I was ok after this one, lol) the life-sized sculpture of a man created out of wire and paper, or free flowing gesture figure drawings out charcoal (this will always be one of my favorite forms), a "landscape" colored pencil drawing made from organisms within the body, all the way to detailed realism paintings of crumpled paper bags and newspapers. If I could only go back through these all once again. Call me weird, but I want to smell the paper, and run my hands over the marks and textures.

Now? The thought of sitting down to create a realistic portrait fills my heart with dread. Instead, I find myself just putting different mediums to paper, and simply making marks. Large, small, quick and scattered, flowing and free, wondering if being drawn to a more abstract style of art is simply a reflection of where I am in my healing journey? Pulling myself away from perfectionism and people pleasing, away from the painstakingly detailed spreadsheets and formulas from my day to day life. Just allowing myself to move, to feel, to express without the need to have it all be perfect. Letting go of control and detail for once. Some days the colors are vibrant and bold, the next, dull, muted, neutrals.

Much like myself and my emotions, many days there is a combination of both.

Of course, in life, I always end up turning to the why. For any action, I have a need to understand the why behind it. When I think about the why behind abstract art feeling more like personal expression these days, there are many reasons that come to mind. And because the adhd, perfectionist in me still loves and needs a list, here we go:

It feels free: Abstract art doesn't have to look like anything in particular, so there's no need to worry about making things look perfect. This freedom of expression can be a liberating experience for those of us who are used to trying to control every detail.

It encourages experimentation: Abstract art often involves trying new techniques and materials, which can be a valuable experience for perfectionists who tend to stick to what we know. By experimenting with different colors, shapes, and textures, we can learn to embrace the unknown and take risks in our artwork.

It promotes mindfulness: Abstract art can be a meditative experience that encourages being present in the moment. By focusing on the process of creating instead of the outcome, we can learn to let go of our worries about the finished product and focus on the present moment.

It can be therapeutic: Creating abstract art can be a way to express emotions and feelings that otherwise might be difficult to put into words. This can be particularly beneficial for for those of us who might struggle with emotional expression (but are working through it!).

It allows for imperfections: This. This times ten. Abstract art is inherently imperfect, which can be a valuable experience for us perfectionists who are used to striving for flawlessness and having to prove something. By embracing imperfection, we can learn to let go of the need for control, find beauty in the unexpected, and learn to love and embrace our imperfect selves in the process.

For now, I'm going to keep doing what feels good and natural for me in this moment, regardless of the outcome, and just embrace the freedom of expression. Maybe someday I'll have a portfolio of abstract art to show, but for now, I'll just keep creating and finding joy in the journey. I hope you do too.

Buen Camino,


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