Art Process over Product — Caryl Fine Art

Janice K. Johnson

The Damage of “Practice Makes Perfect”

From childhood onward, we’re constantly told that “practice makes perfect.” These three simple words cause us to strive for perfection as a final product. We repeat this mantra to ourselves, hoping that someday, after hours and hours of work, we’ll reach that pinnacle and attain the “perfect” status that we’ve been desperately practicing for. 

Mindset Shifts about Practice

Let’s consider a few alternatives to practicing for the sole purpose of attaining an idyllic standard or goal. Of course it’s immensely satisfying to put the final touches on a piece of art, but focusing too much on the final product squelches the joy that can (and should) be found in the midst of the process. 

Practice does not necessarily make perfect; practice makes permanent. If you perpetually practice with tunnel vision that only sees the result, you’ll make this focus on the end destination into a permanent habit. Where is the fulfillment in that?

Let’s instead shift our focus towards how we practice. Merriam-Webster defines the word “practice” as: “to train by repeated exercises” and “to do often, customarily, or habitually.”

Scientists assert that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. To practice painting and make it a habitual routine, you must dedicate a substantial amount of time and effort. That time and effort should be enjoyable, satisfying, and freeing, as you work towards making both the practice and the positive mindset permanent hallmarks of your artistic journey. Instead of dwelling on the perfection of the final outcome, I want you to live in the wonder of the journey, holding your process higher than the end product.

Artistic Growth is Like Learning to Walk

Consider the elation parents feel as they watch their child learn how to walk. They celebrate the process as the toddler wobbles on unstable legs, falls, crawls, lifts themself back up, and tries again. This process and practice is full of failure, triumph, satisfaction, and happiness. 

We should bring these same feelings into our painting journeys. Even the greatest painters wobble, fall, and pick themselves back up. Every journey has its peaks and valleys, but as we learn and grow on our creative paths, we can enjoy the practice instead of dwelling on the merits of the final product. 

Find Joy in the Art Journey

My challenge for you is to start approaching your art practice as a joyful process versus a means toward an end. Luxuriate in the steps along the way, and find joy in practice. I’m also here to help you along that path! I love helping my coaching clients change their mindsets about their art practice and rediscover the joy of uninhibited self-expression.

Does perfectionism interfere with your art practice? I’d love for you to share your challenges in the comments so I can cheer you on!

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