Make Bad Art: Letting Go of Perfectionism and Creating With the Intention of Growth

I once came across the phrase, " Perfectionism is another form of procrastination." It took some time and thought for me to wrap my brain around that concept. It's not always easy to admit you're guilty of such things.

How often do we wait for the time to be right before we begin something? What does that even mean? How will we know that the right time is upon us unless we start the work now? Chances are, if we keep waiting for the perfect time, it may never come. We'll always find something in the way.

While we are on the topic of time, how often do you find yourself saying that you have none? Time is what you make of it. Time is always available to us. It's just a matter of what you prioritize. Stating you have none is yet another form of procrastination. I will be the first to admit that I have been guilty of saying this.

We cannot learn something new, let alone master it unless we begin. We need to be okay with being a beginner sometimes. We have to be willing to take the leap or even to take baby steps to make progress. Sometimes, this means making bad art.

I've had my fair share of what I consider to be bad art. My time as an artist consists of much trial and error, and a healthy dose of mistakes and failures. I wouldn't be creating the work I make today had I not been okay with letting go of the outcome and failing.

If you're feeling a pull towards learning or creating something new, I urge you to go for it. Don't wait until you have the perfect camera or the right lens or ideal lighting. I've come across this time and time again and especially while teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class.

Many women are scared of this class. They can't bring themselves to begin because they fear the judgment of others, they need to lose weight first, or grow out a bad haircut, or find the perfect location, or learn to forgive and love themselves. Whatever that thing is, it is only holding you back from growing. Those things will come in time, but first, you have to make lousy pictures.

Allow me to share a piece of my timeline so you can see my progression.

The year is 2014 and I was newly exploring self-portraiture. That reflection you see in the piano? Everyone loved that. It was sheer luck and completely unplanned. I had no idea of what I was doing. I had no vision for this self-portrait. I just knew that I liked to play the piano and I liked photography.

The year is 2014 and I was newly exploring self-portraiture. That reflection you see in the piano? Everyone loved that. It was sheer luck and completely unplanned. I had no idea of what I was doing. I had no vision for this self-portrait. I just knew that I liked to play the piano and I liked photography.

Another self-portrait from 2014. I began experimenting with slow shutter speeds and garage light.

Another self-portrait from 2014. I began experimenting with slow shutter speeds and garage light.

In 2015 I began to explore a more conceptual route with my self-portraits. This was one of my first attempts at some type of a levitating image. I was laying down on my piano bench and was stiff as a board! I still had no message, but I was allowing myself to try new things.

In 2015 I began to explore a more conceptual route with my self-portraits. This was one of my first attempts at some type of a levitating image. I was laying down on my piano bench and was stiff as a board! I still had no message, but I was allowing myself to try new things.

Another from 2015 where I first began experimenting with tulle and the window light in my small spare room. It’s a tight, small space and I was on the floor for this image. I was beginning to find ways to express and process grief.

Another from 2015 where I first began experimenting with tulle and the window light in my small spare room. It’s a tight, small space and I was on the floor for this image. I was beginning to find ways to express and process grief.

In 2016 I began using vintage dresses and masks. I was looking for ways to portray characters and express my story.

In 2016 I began using vintage dresses and masks. I was looking for ways to portray characters and express my story.

2016- This was the day the rabbit mask arrived. I had no plan or idea of what I would use it for. I put it on and was immediately transformed and inspired to take this self-portrait as a test shot. It became a signature image of mine and it was born out of a   test shot.   Imagine if I had waited for an idea or an ideal moment to use this mask?

2016- This was the day the rabbit mask arrived. I had no plan or idea of what I would use it for. I put it on and was immediately transformed and inspired to take this self-portrait as a test shot. It became a signature image of mine and it was born out of a test shot. Imagine if I had waited for an idea or an ideal moment to use this mask?

I created this all time favorite image. Before this image came to be, I experimented with making clouds and really terrible images.

I created this all time favorite image. Before this image came to be, I experimented with making clouds and really terrible images.

Here is one of the failures! With this failure, I knew I was on to something.

Here is one of the failures! With this failure, I knew I was on to something.

2016 was one of my most creative and experimental years. This was a long exposure I made and titled it “Turn Your Back on Me”.

2016 was one of my most creative and experimental years. This was a long exposure I made and titled it “Turn Your Back on Me”.

2017 came and I bought a wig at the Halloween shop. It was another way to add anonymity to my self-portraits. By this time I had my black and white editing down.

2017 came and I bought a wig at the Halloween shop. It was another way to add anonymity to my self-portraits. By this time I had my black and white editing down.

2017 and one of my all time favorite self-portraits to date. I won a giveaway for a dress that belonged to Brooke Shaden. It was torn and tattered and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use it. Then I made this in my back yard, and got poison ivy from the shoot.

2017 and one of my all time favorite self-portraits to date. I won a giveaway for a dress that belonged to Brooke Shaden. It was torn and tattered and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use it. Then I made this in my back yard, and got poison ivy from the shoot.

In 2018 I slowed down and became creative in other ways such as writing, yoga, and health.

In 2018 I slowed down and became creative in other ways such as writing, yoga, and health.

I created with more intention in 2018 whereas the years leading up to that I created anything and everything.

I created with more intention in 2018 whereas the years leading up to that I created anything and everything.

2019 brought a new camera and with that, a learning curve. I went from a Canon 5D Mark III to a Sony a7r III with one lens.

2019 brought a new camera and with that, a learning curve. I went from a Canon 5D Mark III to a Sony a7r III with one lens.

In 2019 I have put more thought and care into each self-portrait.

In 2019 I have put more thought and care into each self-portrait.

2019

2019

These are just a small sampling of my growth over the years. There are thousands of images in between these.

Thousands.

The moral of the story is just to do it. Allow the time, space, and practice for your growth. Allow for mistakes, failures, mishaps, and pleasant surprises along the way. Most of us are not prodigies at our craft. We earn it, the hard way.

* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link.