Creative style and radical imperfection

Woman and worlds

What if our quest for perfection is what stands between us and our unique voice?

Some time ago I took an illustration class. Every week we had an assignment to complete. At the beginning of the class, our instructor asked us to pin our illustrations to the wall so we could all see them and discuss them.

I discovered two surprising facts.

The first fact: each illustration on the wall was different from the others, in their peculiar way. Every person seemed to possess a personal style: style wasn’t something that we had to create, it was just there. After the first week, we were all able to identify the author of each illustration, because each piece was infused with the ineffable quality of the person who created it.

The second fact: everybody could clearly see other people’s styles in their work, but our own style was elusive. To us, our illustrations looked as plain vanilla normality, with painful flaws that screamed at us. But to everybody else, our work spoke with our unique voice.

So, I wondered, what if the weaknesses that I was so diligently trying to fix and eradicate were the very mark of my own style, my personal and unique signature? What if developing my style meant diving head first into my “imperfection”?

Perhaps evolving as creators meant absolutely embracing our imperfection and getting better and better at it, rather than conforming to some externally defined “right” way to do things (Isn’t this the constant conflict between truly genial artists and The Academia?)

Perhaps the difference between great and just OK is the courage to highlight our weaknesses in neon colors and expose our scars, bruises, and naked frailty to the entire universe. Perhaps what we see as perfection in great artists is their own radical, unapologetic, and extraordinary imperfection.

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