Keiichi, an older Japanese man I used to work with, said I was a perfectionist. “But I’m so much better than I used to be!” I sputtered in protest. “Nobody likes perfect” he said in one of his classic statements of truth before laughing and walking away while I was left pondering my OCD pursuit of excellence. Keiichi made me nuts, and I really hated it when he hit me in the heart of my disfunctions.
He was right of course. If art is “perfect”, it becomes sterile and unlovable. We can draw a line on the computer which is absolutely straight and perfect, and nobody wants to look at that. A straight line painted in watercolor is a whole different animal, and gives us so much more to look at. These poppies still make me cringe, but I’ve hung them on an odd wall in my kitchen as a reminder to myself to give up perfection.
I was given a completely unreasonable set of deadlines for major clients while 2 of my coworkers basked in the luxury of making art just because. In other words, they were making art that might be used in the future for a project, but without a real project in mind for it yet. Then our boss came in and said that we all had to do layouts for an important presentation that afternoon. I’d like to say that was an unusual kind of situation, but no, it was pretty common, and on this particular day I didn’t take it very well. I tried to make her see reason, but she demanded completion of my original projects plus the layouts for the afternoon. I plotted her murder while cutting every corner and whipped out these poppies in a frenzy of flying paint. One of my coworkers smiled smugly as he passed me and I decided to plot his murder too.
Predictably, the original important clients were unhappy with the cut corners and had more revisions. The afternoon customers picked a layout from my smug coworker who had had the proper time to do the job right. I slammed the poppies in a drawer and went home for the day, knowing full well that the whole situation would repeat itself at some point, and it did.
So, on the day when I was given 2 hours to paint the Sistine Chapel or its equivalent, I pulled out the poppies and slapped it on a layout. This time the customer bit. Yay! Until the bitchy saleswoman said she needed final art for the printer that day. What?! It was already 3:30 in the afternoon and as you can see in the layout, this wasn’t a simple rectangular box. When I asked basic questions like what goes on the back of the box, the saleswoman went ballistic and said I was being uncooperative. Ballistic was her default emotion, so I just continued the art around the back. The customer later had to have stickers printed to paste over the back with ingredient information because the saleswoman hadn’t wanted to look ignorant and ask the questions she should’ve asked in the first place.
So, the art was printed, and my perfectionist self made faces at the printed samples when they came in. There wasn’t much I could do about it, so I unsuccessfully tried to put it out of my mind. There’s nothing worse than having work you aren’t proud of reproduced hundreds of times, printed in catalogs, and plastered over the web.
But here’s the thing… The customer was happy. The customer’s customers were happy. My boss was happy and the saleswoman was happy. Everybody made money except for me, and everybody was happy except for me. I decided I needed to rearrange my attitude.
There are all sorts of things I would’ve liked to have fixed in this piece if I’d had more time, but let’s get real. Nobody would’ve noticed the differences if I’d had the time to fix them. People might actually like these flowers better because they were more spontaneous than my usual, uptight perfectionism. Okay, this is an internal battle I still continue to fight with myself, but like I said to Keiichi, I’m so much better than I used to be!