mistakes & the fight against preciousness

Karina Bania art

This is a painting still in progress, or maybe it's done, I'm not sure yet. I usually have pieces in process hanging around the house, reclining on the couch, pulling up a chair with us at dinner, sleeping next to me in bed. You think I'm kidding, but if I've created you, I need to look at you a lot. Just ask my kids or my living room after I rearrange it.

The thing that kind of gets me in life is that there are endless possibilities. Endless decisions to be made, endless ways to frame and filter that photograph you're about to post on instagram, endless streams of words to put together for a blog post, endless marks to lay on the canvas. For someone who struggles with perfectionism, there comes a point in certain paintings where I hesitate to make the next move for fear of ruining it. Into my head swim deadlines, thoughts of limited studio time between carpools, and tallying all the time invested into a piece. That fear can then make me act with caution. And caution, well, that's a killer of creativity. So I must kill caution right there. What do I do? I usually throw paint on preciousness.

If you fear your next decision will ruin your work, you are being precious. Preciousness is trading creative freedom for fear. It's holding you back and stifling the natural creativity that wants to come out. I paint over paintings all the time. I make mistakes constantly. My mistakes are what generally lead me to some of the best places my work has gone and definitely some of the most enjoyable moments of working. But many pieces go nowhere. Many times I leave the studio with nothing to show for it but the act of creating. And that is enough. Everything doesn't always have to be "something."


A few tips for feeling free:

• Let go of needing every creative act to go somewhere. Every work can’t be a masterpiece. Create to create.

• Step back. Think about your overall body of work or what you want to express. Create for that. It puts less pressure on an individual piece or project.

• Try something different. Make time to try different projects. Sketch, doodle, journal, knit. Trying a different medium often helps you loosen up, get inspired and feel more creative.

• Exercise, drive, shower or sleep. Inspiration often comes when our mind is relaxed and body are relaxed.

• Loosen your self-imposed expectations. Play and have fun.