I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Obsession"

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!

30 comments:

  1. Linda I cannot see a single thing wrong with those gorgeous poppies...give me a clue?? I would be delighted to see those images over and over....I can see why the title is very apt for you...;0)
    Have a perfect weekend,
    Jane x

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  2. Augghhh! Such a familiar art department story here, (murderous plots, torture, blame, envy, redemption!) but I have to agree with the happy customers. These are lovely poppies- a belated "Atta girl!" :o)

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  3. I had to laugh when I read this. I think this happens in art studios all the time. I must say that it seems to be a bit dangerous to be your co-worker though! A friend of mine that does really tight work had an assignment to do a loose image...after a bottle of wine she succeeded, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. Your poppies are very nice by the way. I think you should do a companion piece.

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  4. Should I really admit to all the flaws Jane? We'll just ignore the pencil lines that didn't get erased or the fact that those leaves couldn't be growing with those flowers or that I copy/pasted a couple flowers so it would work as a vertical format -- and that's just the beginning of my picky obsessions :)

    For the record, I never acted on any of my murderous impulses, and to be more honest, I think I spent more time fantasizing about sending them to Siberia without their computers or cellphones -- in practical shoes. I figured just the idea of practical shoes would kill them!

    Thanks for the comments!

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  5. Hey Linda,
    Keep fighting the good fight! I know exactly what you mean, but I do think often those perceived imperfections "read" as spontaneous and intentional to other observers. All's well that ends well, at any rate, and I agree with everyone that the poppies are beautiful! ( I'm still obsessing over what to post for my IF ;) )

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  6. Boy, I hear you. I used to erase right through my paper as a kid. I gave you a shout out!

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  7. Oh the pain! I think we are too much alike... for me it is a daily battle & I lose more often than I win. Arghh!!!

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  8. I love the softness of these poppies, better still I love that you have them hanging on your wall :)

    Funny story (in hindsight.)

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  9. A lot of stories end up funnier in hindsight! I suspect a lot of us think alike in our obsessions, and I have to admit it's making me laugh today. Let's all yell with Leah -- Arghh!!!

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  10. Ha! Great post Linda. Pencil lines in a fine art piece... is a gift. It allows one to see the excitement of the process. The secret perhaps lies in defining "perfection' as allowing spontaneity and to show the beauty and emotion of imperfection... and the frailty of the human condition. But that's just me. Love the piece. Hugs. Feel better. :o)

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  11. These poppies are perfectly lovely, and such a charming color palette too. But I know what you mean about that demon 'perfectionism.' Such a thing we do to ourselves...and to each other! Your workday story reminds me of the several years I spent working in the design department of a print shop. On the wall hung a faded poster of a scheduling calendar on which the month's numbers were backwards: day one was numbered 31, day 31 was numbered 1 and so on. Brilliant! Below the calendar was the motto: "There's never enough time to do the job right, but there's always time to do it over!" Yep, perfectionism and picky clients in a rush *definitely* do not mix well. Lucky you got out with your sense of humor intact!! :-)

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  12. Oh dear Linda, these are beautiful :) !

    I'll come back later and read and look some more :)

    see you!

    sat night here , must party!

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  13. Rand, when I went to an Escher exhibit a few months ago, I was disappointed that there weren't more sketches to show his process. Maybe I'll quit erasing in the future?

    Absolutely agree with your calendar Susan! I like doing things right the first time. But yeah, we've just got to laugh about things or we might go crazy :)

    Thanks for the comments everybody!

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  14. What a hellish-sounding job! When I first starting reading your post, I was thinking how different you and I sound, because I am so clearly NOT a perfectionist in my art-making, but in projects like you were describing it would drive me completely nuts to not have things done right, and the visuals matter, so I guess I'm much farther along on the scale that I would have thought. The poppies are lovely!

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  15. Thanks so much! I have to admit it was a hellish job, but only because of some of the people. I loved the actual work when I was given enough time to do it.

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  16. Oh my word do I totally understand what you go through in a day!!! I know how you feel and all. It's pretty crazy for me as well. Someday I just want to run and hide!! I just recently started working on children's book with some people and the crazy deadlines that they have in place are so freakin' unrealistic I wanted to cancel the job and just walk away. I have lots of other clients that are waiting for their work and who pay a whole lot more. I explained to my agent that I was human and not a machine. It takes time to do an illustration even when it's a digital illustration. Sometimes even longer. I have also told the Art Director I couldn't reach her goal date and that she would have to wait. She's not to happy, but I won't rush artwork for anyone. My name is out there too. I totally get you! Thanks so much for stopping and visiting my blog. Your work is amazing!! I love this post as well as your patterns and fine art. Wonderful work you do.
    Nice to meet you too.
    Best,
    V

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  17. I absolutely understand your feelings on this! I can be so Obsessive and a perfectionist and it causes great pain! I've had to loosen up on my style a bit, since I'm developing arthritis in my right thumb, because of the way I held my pencil for years, very tight controlling lines. Funny, in this second half of my life, I've realized I have no control (yeah, it took me a long time)!

    But, I feel better, peaceful with a better ability to handle what life's handing me lately! Wow! All that from just letting it go! :)

    I also plot demises of folks that drive me crazy, it is delicious fun, although the thought of actually carrying it out never occurred to me...Thank Goodness! :) There would be too many bodies to count!!!

    Oh my, I've written a book here! Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts, experiences and life with us on your blog, they are always, always wonderful!

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  18. Heisann!
    Is it me that wrote this? I think we are a large group of perfectionists working with being clever in ' not to be so perfect'!
    I like the 'paperstyle' of your poppies.... and this is so emotional.
    With love from bjorgnin

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  19. My art teacher told me (a long time ago) There is no such thing as a strait line in nature or a perfect flower. I’ve been looking for the perfect flower and he was right. Your’s are fabulous Linda! Love the colors and composition. Your story is great... although I have to admit, I haven’t experienced such stress. My daughter on the other hand has some doozies. She is a graphic designer. I was thinking of her as I read your story :o) .... Oh and my art teacher was wrong about a strait line in nature. I was walking through the woods and the sun beamed through the trees.... in a perfect strait line. :o)

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  20. My sympathies Vanessa. Good luck with your project!

    I love comments :) Thanks everybody!!!

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  21. Thanks for sharing this story! The poppies just look wonderful.

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  22. Thanks! I'm scratching my head at the moment though. Out of the blue this painting just fell off the wall. I don't know if I've ever had a painting just fall off the wall before. Life is strange :)

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  23. Good "obsession" story! I'm a perfectionist when it comes to numbers, but that's because they are exact! No grey areas. With my artwork, I think I'm my worst critic, but I've given into the fact that some days, stuff will just end up in the trash and that is that!

    Love the poppies!

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  24. As a fellow perfectionist. I really enjoyed your post...and your poppies!

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  25. Hey Linda, well I finally had enough time to get back. I know someone already wrote aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggh :)

    But I would like to repeat it in fact I will: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggh :)

    Death isn't good enough for these people! Heh, but seriously, there is the difference between fine intelligent good looking wonderful artists like us, and the others - like the people in your story ;)

    So we must feel sorry for them, eh?

    Your flowers are beautiful even though they are peerfect ...:)

    cheers from oz

    PS I am not late, just early for next week!

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  26. oh I loved your story, you have talent in all directions.

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  27. I have a strong urge to go through Abby's trash. I wonder if Rembrandt ever threw his art away? Thanks for the comments! I'm still laughing at Andrew :) Aaaarrrrrrgh!

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  28. Hi Linda! I feel like I haven't commented in ages! I have been remiss-- I must tell you I LOVE LOVE LOVE your Launch braid and that Cancer crab makes me downright envious!! If you think your perfectionism is a bad thing, give it to me! :)

    I feel for you, sometimes I get requests for something that would be so much fun if I had time to really work it out, but it turns out to be stressful because of the timeframe. Creativity and stress just shouldn't go together. But they seem to be paired up more often than not, eh? I have a friend who works for a toy company, and as much fun as that should be, it's the same thing, constant pressure and catty co-workers!

    Oh, and thank you soooo much for thinking of me below! I'm lousy at this type of stuff, but please don't think I don't appreciate it!

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  29. It only shows how brilliant you are....
    I like with what you said "I’m so much better than I used to be".

    Cassy from Beginner Free Guitar Lessons

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