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.

Backstage Pass: The Story Behind the Image

I recently began creating a new series, Luna, and wanted to share a peek at what goes on behind the scenes.

I like to incorporate objects as symbolism in many of my self-portraits. For this series, I wanted a type of sphere to represent the moon. I purchased several of the Amazing Wubble Bubble Balls (Have you heard of them?) in white and blue. I also used a 3D printed LED moon lamp (which has some texture. Can you spot it?). Soon I'll be adding in pearl-colored children's ball pit balls for even more spheres. I chose shades of blues and whites because I felt they would convert well to black and white in my post-processing.

I began by setting up some test shots in my backyard to get a feel for things before changing into a cumbersome dress. It can sometimes be difficult with all of the back and forth to my camera while wearing a gown. Often, they end up dirt ridden, torn and tattered, but thankfully, the camera is forgiving.

Test shot to grab my focus, set my exposure, and get the placement of the balls.

Test shot to grab my focus, set my exposure, and get the placement of the balls.

My initial thoughts were to capture the balls in mid-air. This process proved to be complicated. It was tricky to time it out with my camera's shutter release and more times than not the balls landed on my head, knocking my glasses off.

Here you can see that I was trying to capture some movement in my dress.


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In these outtakes you can see how I try to capture some movement in my dress.

In these outtakes you can see how I try to capture some movement in my dress.

Eventually, I ended up with a costume change and a call for back-up. Since I don't typically work in Photoshop, I need to find other ways to bring my visions to life. Sometimes that means asking for help.

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You can see the hand on the left by the dress.

You can see the hand on the left by the dress.

Once I finished, I brought my images into Lightroom and converted them to black and white. I added any texture and bokeh using Alien Skin Exposure software. It only took me about 10 minutes to edit each self-portrait.

Here are a few of the final edits.

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I hope you enjoyed this little peek into what goes on behind the scenes. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below, and I'd be happy to reply.

Your Relationship With Self and Art

What’s your relationship with yourself like? What about with your art?
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I work on my relationship with myself every morning when I step onto my yoga mat, every time I put pencil to paper (yes, I prefer to hand write everything and with pencil ✏️ 🙂), every time I make the conscious choice to put the time in to nourish my body and not choose the opposite, every time I pick up or listen to a book, every online class I take to further educate myself (we can never stop learning), and in so many other ways.
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The other night I shared a little BTS video in my Instagram Stories of me setting up for a self-portrait in my backyard. It was completely impromptu. I had gone outside with Linhsey (my daughter) while she played hockey in the driveway, but the fading light and woods whispered for me to come.
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I obliged.
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While I didn’t create anything magical, I embodied and relished myself in the process. I spent so much thought and time in the winter pondering why I wasn’t out there creating as much. The cold and snow had never stopped me in the past. Now I see I just needed to lean in and trust in the process. It may call at the oddest of times, or lie dormant for quite some time. I just need to trust that whatever I’m meant to create, I will.
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I needed to go through this process the other night of feeling that spark of inspiration, setting up, making the images, and taking it all down again. It’s within that process that my relationship to self grows the most.
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What about you?

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Trial and Error with Self Portraiture

A little background story- I’ve been having my son film and edit some behind the scenes videos for me that I’ll be using in some upcoming materials I’m creating. Remember when I said I’m a shy introvert? Well being in a video = awkward!
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For those that don’t know, I use a dress form that happens to have a couple of wigs and a bear mask on it to take my place in a self-portrait so that I can grab my focus and set up my shot. 🐻 I’ll include a shot of it to give you a better idea. Just scroll to see.
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So as he began to film me, the head of the dress form with both wigs and the bear mask popped off and fell to the ground. As this was happening I bent over to save it when all of a sudden the entire dress form decided to fall and clobber me in the head/face. 😳😖🤣
So after much intense laughter exchanged between the two of us I was able to complete the self portraits all the while extremely happy that it was done and over with and having my fingers crossed that he got enough footage.
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He didn’t.
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So this self-portrait was from attempt #2, which went much smoother, where I tried to be much more present in the moment. 😅
I just wanted to share that it’s not all fairytales and magic. There’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of mishaps, but the process and experience is what it’s all about for me.

What’s your favorite part? Where do you lose yourself and learn the most? Is it in the editing? Sharing? The actual shoot or the preparation before hand? Share in the comments below and earn bonus points for sharing a mishap 😂

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My dress form that I use to grab my focus. Works like a charm.

My dress form that I use to grab my focus. Works like a charm.

Intro- I'm Sharon Covert

I tend to forget that many of you are new followers and that you haven’t been following my journey all along. I thought I’d give you a little introduction.
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My name is Sharon Covert. Most of the work you see here is self-portraits aside from some still life from time to time and portraits of my daughter. My son is grown and in college now so he hasn’t made an appearance in quite some time. He does spend some time with me behind the scenes though. He’s in the process of putting together some BTS’s videos he filmed for me for my newsletter and an upcoming class I’m teaching. His major is video production. Lucky me 😉
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I began using self-portraiture as a way of self-expression about 6 years ago. I’m a shy introvert but thrive in expressing myself through words, art, and music. Before photography I taught piano lessons to children for many years. It was such a rewarding and challenging experience but I truly enjoyed working with children.
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I currently teach an online course, Expressive Self Portraiture, through The Define School. You could say it’s a dream come true. The women I have met online and worked with have left me speechless and in awe.
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I’m about to graduate from The Institute of Integrative Nutrition in a few short weeks. The year long program has been life-changing and the coaching skills I have learned there have begun to carry over into my photography class. I’m excited for what the future holds.
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I don’t composite or edit in photoshop. It’s not that I’m against it, I just haven’t put in the time and effort to learn the program. I really will one day, but I admit, I am completely intimidated by it! I enjoy the process of creating my self-portraits and finding ways to bring my ideas to life.
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If you’re curious about anything else, or if you’d like to tell me something about yourself, leave a comment below ⬇️! As always, thank you so very much for your support. It means so much to me! ♥️

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Self Doubt

I quit 100 times a day. I quit and then I talk myself down and start once again. Every. Single. Day.

What do I have to offer? I’m not qualified to do this. Maybe this is just an expensive hobby. Maybe I’m not meant to make a living from this. Maybe I’m missing the whole point. What is my purpose? Maybe I’m too busy trying to make this work that I’m actually missing out on enjoying my so-called “gift” to the fullest potential. Maybe I’ve lost sight of my passion and my true WHY as to why I actually do this.

And just like that, for every negative I miraculously find a positive. This is my calling. This is my voice. Everything I’ve gone through has led me straight to this. There is nothing more fulfilling than creating, teaching, sharing what I know, supporting like-minded women, forging these intimate bonds in such a short period of time, inviting women to this safe space and earning their trust, supporting them, lifting them up, gathering in such a sacred space to let it all go and create with wild and reckless abandon. All of the masks fall away, the false beliefs and stories we convinced ourselves of no longer hold any truths, and we’re left with beautiful raw honesty in its purest form. In our vulnerability we find our strength.

My most recent block of Expressive Self Portraiture is wrapping up this week. To all of the women who trusted in me past and present, I thank you, wholeheartedly. Thank for you showing up with open minds, open hearts, willing to do the work, in all of your brave fierceness and honesty. ♥️

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Registration is OPEN!!!


Wanted: Creative, emotional Artist seeking her tribe of like-minded Artists.
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My Belief: I believe in creating for self-love, self-awareness, self-discovery, self-reflection, self-guidance, self-healing and introspection. My core belief is that by practicing these things you will become a better person to serve those around you.
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Have you ever been moved by someone else’s art? Have you ever felt connected in some way to another’s magic?
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We, as Artists, are healers.
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My 4 week interactive mentorship based course, Expressive Self Portraiture, through The Define School is now OPEN for registration! We will spend 4 weeks online together learning and practicing the tools I give you for creating art for yourself. You will learn how to think outside the box and bring your inner stories to life in a healing and expressive way. In this course I share everything. I hold nothing back.
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Answer the call and join me by clicking the link in my bio. 
I’m so damn excited for this! ♥️
Class begins February 18, 2019!
https://www.thedefineschool.com/…/expressive-self-portrait…/

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I See You

I see you.
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To the woman who just turned her camera around onto herself for the first time today.
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I see you.
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To the woman who uses self-portraiture as a way to feel good about herself.
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I see you.
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To the one who is too scared to begin but can feel a small fire brewing inside of her ready to spread like wildfire when given the chance.
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I see you.
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To the one who feels lost. To the one who feels newly found. To the one who needs to heal. To the one who needs to come to terms with her body and accept herself for who she is. To the one who needs to forgive herself. To the one who needs to let go of the past in order to move forward. To the one who longs to feel empowered. To the one who abused herself. To the one who was abused by someone else. To the one who feels like a lost child inside. To the one who feels proud. To the one who thinks it’s her fault. To the one who worked so hard.
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I see you. I see you all and I witness your courage and honor your perseverance.

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Calling All Creatives

Wanted: Creative, emotional Artist seeking her tribe of like-minded Artists.
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My Belief: I believe in creating for self-love, self-awareness, self-discovery, self-reflection, self-guidance, self-healing and introspection. My core belief is that by practicing these things you will become a better person to serve those around you.
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Have you ever been moved by someone else’s art? Have you ever felt connected in some way to another’s magic?
🔍
We, as Artists, are healers.
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My 4 week interactive Expressive Self Portraiture course through The Define School is now OPEN for registration! We will spend 4 weeks online together learning and practicing the tools I give you for creating art for yourself. You will learn how to think outside the box and bring your inner stories to life in a healing and expressive way. In this course I share everything. I hold nothing back.
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Answer the call and join me by clicking THIS LINK for more information. 
I’m so damn excited for this! ♥️

Class beings September 10th! 

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