I don’t know if it’s a zoological fact but one day, many years ago when I was trying to work out how to perfect a piece of art, my mother looked at me and said “Eventually the pearl kills the oyster.”
Salvadore Dalí said it this way: “Don’t worry about perfection, you’ll never attain it.”
On the one hand, you can’t wait for lightning to strike and allow you to suddenly make your definitive masterpiece. You can’t create a masterpiece without being a master. To be a master you have to have made a lot of work. There is no substitute for practice. And even if you are unusually gifted, you probably will have a lot of failures. But on the other hand even if you ceased being an artist tomorrow, you’ll always look back and see the flaws in the art you create today.
For this reason confronting the blank canvas can be daunting, even terrifying. But remember this:
Most art is ruined on the first stroke.
If you keep this in mind while you work it will help you to stop worrying about how well your art will turn out and free you up to create it. You can’t spoil a piece if it’s already ruined, and you will learn more by finishing the piece than by not finishing it.
You just have to keep working through the frustration and try to finish the piece, polishing out the imperfections. You have to work at each piece until you’ve asked enough questions of yourself that you get the answers you need to make something close to the piece you first imagined. It’s rarely close to the piece you first imagined. It may completely fail to meet your expectations. But if you work through it, it can be different and better. That’s where you find the masterpieces. Perfection isn’t in the piece you imagine you can create, it’s in the piece you create.
In the end, everything you finish to the point where you would hang it on the wall is perfect — erasures, adjustments and all. It is the perfect one-of-a-kind representation of itself, and of your ability to express it in the time that you rendered it.
Think of it this way: If Picasso went to an art museum and saw one of his sketches on the wall, he’d very likely still see the mistakes and all the things he’d like to have done differently. He’d also see how much he’d progressed as an artist since he sketched that piece.
Put on display, the art is removed from the context of the artist’s own judgement and is allowed to speak for itself. It’s not flawless but it is perfect.