I recently completed this little portrait for my girlfriend’s 14-year old niece, Noel. I wanted to give her a special birthday present, and I always think the best present to give someone is what you make from your heart and soul. I truly believe that. Plus, Noel actually wanted a portrait of herself painted. So in a short afternoon, I painted this oil painting from a photo from a cellphone camera. Mind you, it wasn’t easy, so I had to plan a few things ahead of time. Kind of like making a gameplan before a big football game, I had to get my x’s and o’s together.
First, I wanted an “old masters” feel to it. I liked the idea of a dark background with the figure popping out. Second I wanted perfection. Yes, I admit I always do before starting a painting. For me, it raises the bar, keeps me painting very high standards. But deep down, I realize that not every painting will turn out a masterpiece as I want it to be. I notice if I try to work to hard, the piece becomes overworked and muddy, therefore no perfection acquired. Sorry, come back again soon!
It’s only after I finished painting, I realize that I did my best at that possible moment, and I can’t have it back. So I have to accept it for what it was. Second, I can always point out good and not so good things happening in my work. It’s true that you’re your own best and worst critic. I can be pretty hard on myself too. It’s probably the hardest thing to accept that this painting came out as good as it will get. Unless I do another one and who knows how it will turn out. Maybe that’s why artists over history painted subjects many times over, to perfect that subject. Monet painted many haystacks, Van Gogh painted many starry nights.
So I have come to a conclusion. Perfection is an illusion after all. Maybe our human desires crave perfection in everything we do and want in life. But in the end, it’s all an illusion (not a grand illusion like Styx, but close). Humans aren’t perfect, and neither is our thoughts, words, art, culture, government. Nothing. Art isn’t perfect, but sometimes can come pretty close. And yet we strive for perfection in something all the time. Maybe it’s time to be content with our imperfection, don’t you think?
By the way, Noel liked her portrait.