Posts Tagged ‘perfection’

The Power of YES

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Last week I posted an ‘advice for artists’ article on my Facebook Page about the importance of saying NO in order to carve out time for ART. “Creative People Say No” is an extract from Kevin Ashton’s new book, “How to Fly a Horse  —  The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery.” In this article, creative people (all men, by the way!) were quoted on their use of NO to build walls around that elusive time space needed for creative exploration and production.

But, at least from my point of view, the reality is more like this: picture a studio smack dab in the middle of a busy highway, with lanes curving around this tiny oasis. Is it possible to ignore the sounds of traffic, the honking, the emergency vehicles and the multi-vehicle pileups occurring just outside? Not to mention the distractions coming from within: the trusty iPad twinkling away, and the radio announcing the latest political dramas?

City Lights   2006  19x50"

City Lights 2006 19×50″

The main difficulty, especially for women, is that we thrive on community and connection. Tuning it out, while also remaining open to creative flow, is a creative endeavor all its own. And what does success mean anyway? Wouldn’t this obsession with saying NO lead to unhappy choices in a balanced life?

So I am proposing to turn it around. Instead of selectively saying NO, why don’t we selectively say YES?

Image (2)Before I explain, maybe I should first define success. In the art world, success is the ability to carry through from inspiration to product, and to have that product reach and move an audience. (It is NOT about financial success, which is another animal altogether, distinctly separate from art creation.) I am completely confident in saying that yes, success in the art world does indeed contribute to happiness in the same way any successful interaction does, because it is satisfying to the artist and to the viewer. Communication is the fabric that holds society together. A strong, single minded approach to art-making is a worthwhile pursuit.


At the same time, saying YES to one aspect in life means something has to give. We must decide what we are willing and able to live without. My father always said that it doesn’t matter what you choose, just make your decision and never look back: accept the whole package, positive and negative. So I try to remember that not every single part of my life is going to be perfect. I made a career decision with all my heart and soul, and like a marriage, for better or for worse.

Wilfred A. J. Roy, my greatest inspiration in life.

Wilfred A. J. Roy, my greatest inspiration in life.

Still, none of us is a ‘single purpose creature’. We come from society and we die with society. I believe there is room for a committed, yet balanced, art life. Therefore, for good measure, we need to make room for a few more hard YESes.

Here are my three YESes:

1. YES to Social Connection

Taking care of my Mom and babysitting our grandboy, being there when I am needed for my family. Time with a select circle of friends.

Ubuntu - Source. 43" round  This circular quilt represents connection.

Ubuntu – Source   43″  2014  Lorraine Roy
This circular quilt represents connection.

2. YES to ART

YES to helping and supporting colleagues, both established and emerging, to writing a blog because it helps firm up my own thoughts, and to keeping an active Facebook Page. YES to all the business/client time that arises.

Each time a request for my time and energy comes in, I ask: does this move my art forward, does it support my personal ethics and vision and does it draw on my strengths? Is it an efficient use of my time? Saying YES to ART led to my decision not to participate in committees, societies and group projects. I am not a primarily social creature and the stress was deadly for my work. Here was one solution: our local Carnegie Gallery requires member artists to contribute a number of hours per year, either by joining committees or taking on other tasks. Drawing on my independent streak, I created and managed their first Facebook Page. This meant I worked from home, it segued nicely with my own online time, and it saved them having a non-team player at meetings! For exhibition requests I ask: does this gallery or juried show further my exposure, is it locally relevant, and does it contribute to the perception of quality in the public mind? The answers help me be more selective. I gauge commitments against how much time and distance is involved. Of course, committees are necessary and someone must fill galleries and teach workshops: these are other artists’ YESes, and I feel quite comfortable leaving them to it.

3. YES to Quality of Life

Cooking and enjoying good food and wine, time with select friends, long walks, quiet evenings reading, and gardening. Which means: fewer parties and group activities, less travel, less time shopping, a not perfectly clean house. The resulting NOs have become so automatic I don’t miss them or waste time thinking about them. In the summer it’s a giant, defiant YES to my garden and my home.

Our little grandboy.  Always a YES.

Our little grandboy.
Always a YES.

Instead of asking “How much less will I create unless I say NO?” I ask myself, “How much more will I create if I say YES?” In my art practice, saying YES empowered my choices. If we choose our YESes wisely, the NOs will justify themselves.

Embracing imperfection

Monday, March 14th, 2011
First, the News of the Day: I’ve been asked by the Janome sewing machine company to be the Featured Artist for their booth at the upcoming International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, California slated for July 28-31, 2011. The theme this year is The Four Seasons – right up my alley! I will post more about this exciting event as the date approaches, and will let you know what I decide: should I go in person this time? It seems that my work shows up in many of these Quilt extravaganzas, but the maker (me) never seems to follow. Let’s just say, maybe it’s time.
On Perfection/Imperfection:
Many many times, viewers of my work make the comment that I must be a perfectionist. While I know this comes from a good place with the best of intentions, I find it incredibly puzzling. Without even looking hard, I see dozens if not hundreds of flaws: threads hanging, yarns in less-than-ideal positions, colours and contrasts that don’t work that well, stitching that could have been more in keeping with the lines…. not to mention lack of classic balance and ignoring the rules of design with predictable results. Just off the top of my head, I can think of all kinds of improvements to make in even the best of my pieces.
But I can let that be, and I’m not shy about it – I might even say that in some cases I allow these imperfections to flourish. Below is an excerpt from an interview I did a few years ago with Dr Bernie Herman, in answer to his question about how I feel about imperfection in my work:
“I humbly believe my art is a microcosm of what is happening each day on this Earth – that each piece I make captures (in the best way I can) one moment in a continuum of moments. It is not perfect but it buillds on previous experience, and is a step to the next level.
Just because one individual piece is not perfect does not mean it has less value. On the contrary, it has much to offer someone who is truly observing and searching – the mistakes, the inconsistencies, the omissions, the triumphs and failures – they are all there, plain to see. Each viewer enters it, contributes to it, and grows with it, in his own way. The viewer is a co-creator with the artist. This would not happen if the piece was perfect. The static state of Perfection is death for the soul.
Take the processes of Biology. A static grid could represent the orderly and mathematical process of cell division. But, during this process, even if everything proceeds as it should, surprises can happen at any point. How species adapt and evolve to deal with these surprises leads to their eventual wins and losses. Winners pass it on to the next generation. This is what drives evolution.”
Nothing moves without change.You could even say imperfection is BUILT IN to the DNA of life. And this fleeting moment is what I look for in other artwork too, not only in my own. The works I admire most contain within them a welcome mat, a place where I can cozy up and ride along with the maker. It is not about answers, but about intriguing questions that spur my imagination and challenge my preconceived notions.
So, no, I am absolutely NOT a perfectionist. Allowing and embracing imperfection and mistakes is how I evolve within my own work. This is what I want to pass on to viewers: I want to let them in, I want them to join me in my journey. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe that together we can explore those exciting questions, combine our strengths, and grow along together.
Till next time…. Lorraine

February 2011

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

First, here’s a link to a nice interview with me on the World of Threads Festival website. This International festival is a bi-yearly event that happens in Oakville, a town not far from where I live. I’ve been participating in it for years as an exhibitor, speaker, and juror. Each year it gets better. I am getting harder and harder to please with textiles, and yet last year’s showing just blew me away!!! So if you are a textile artist I strongly recommend that you visit the event if you can, enter your work in Common Thread exhibition or keep an eye on what’s happening there (even if you’re from VERY far away)…. I have a strong feeling that this year’s festival is going to be a knockout.

Also, I will be teaching a 3-day workshop in London, Ontario this coming May, as part of the Gathering Threads conference organized by the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild. I suggest booking early for any of their events and workshops – they are filling up fast!

OK! Down to the day’s discussion.

The Gathering Thread interview stirred up some great topics and got them buzzing around in my head. This is why I rarely turn down interviews, especially those that go beneath surface. First of all, it’s flattering that someone, anyone, might be interested in what I’ve got to say. Heck, how often does THAT happen? And the other thing is, especially with the written ones, they cause me to really think about the reasons why I feel as I feel. Most of the time, space constraints don’t allow me to put it all in the interview, so I’m going to make a list and do it here in my blog.

Why I love my technique

The most important quest for any artist is to find a medium that resonates with her vision, her abilities and her personality. I love my technique. I do.

And after a lot of thought, I believe this is why: from start to finish, there is a lot that ‘just happens’. That is to say, chance plays an important role in the finished product. For example, although I have a huge, and I mean huge, collection of fabrics, I rarely have ‘exactly’ the right colour envisioned for the piece. Or it’s there and can’t be found, in spite of the relative order of my storage system.

So what’s a girl to do? Go out and buy new materials each time? Not an option… the nearest fabric shop is a good 20 minutes’ drive and in the heat of the creative moment I am not a good risk behind the wheel. SO – I make do. Yes, I make do with what I have. And this just happens to be the most important and salient and exciting part for me: the medium itself, the fabrics I have now, become part of a ‘conversation’. I am no longer the dictator.

This way, my process begins to record where and how I am at the moment, with the materials I have, with the machines, studio and life that I’ve got. Me, and my life, not ‘just me’. By pushing it just a bit further, by using scraps that are just lying around, cutting them in a random way, throwing them on instead of carefully placing them, sewing over them in unplanned patterns and lines, letting the raw edges fray, going for BOLD rather than FUSSY… I live in the moment, turn the ego off and experience a direct connection with the muse, no longer getting in my own way.

Letting go is exhilarating. It means accepting the risk of failure. It means overcoming obstacles in new ways. It means learning to live with and embracing imperfection. It’s the ONLY way to exceed my own entrenched ideas. Plus, no problem worrying about running out of this or that. I KNOW nothing is going to impede my creative energy.

I think all life should be like that … as in art, so in life. Or so I hope. As I explore this idea in my art practice, every day, I hope snippets of ‘letting go’ will drift into my daily life. In that way, art is definitely my teacher.

I know there are all kinds of great new products out there, glues and sprays and sparkly things, tools and machines and threads and storage options… There are all kinds of ways I might be able to ‘improve’ how I work, do it better, faster, quieter, bigger…. but I resist, for all the reasons above: those ‘things’ will find their way to me if they are meant to. Otherwise, I am fine, content and free of want.

That’s all for now… It’s winter, the most beautiful of seasons. Stay warm and we’ll talk again soon.

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