Zen of Art: Taming the Dragon Perfectionism

acrylics taming dragon debiriley.com
Taming The Dragon …Acrylics on canvas debiriley.com

Zen of Art. How to tame the Dragon called Perfectionism?

In search of perfection.  A tantalising empty promise. An Illusion. “How Good” does my art have to be, before I’m satisfied?  When will I be content and not frustrated?    What does it actually take?  And hey! why should I bother thinking about this anyway?!   How can I chill out, how can I   Zen while creating  Art? How do I  stop being so frustrated and be more content……. in other words,  How to tame that dragon called Perfectionism? Wabi Sabi.  Wabi sabi is an excellent way to get more Zen into my life and serenity into my art.   Wait! Back up!   WHATS    WABI SABI? Wabi Sabi properly described would be a long post indeed!  My interpretation is –  it is a way of thinking, accepting and learning to see beauty in the Imperfect,  in the Impermanent and   in the Incomplete.   7 Elements of Wabi Sabi

  • tranquility       seijaku
  • simplicity         kanso
  • natural             shizen
  • freedom           datsuzoku
  • weathered        koko
  • subtle grace      yugen
  • asymmetry       fukinsei

Wabi Sabi is about embracing the simplicity in the ordinary, the natural, the old, the weathered.  Its about looking beyond the shallow surface of plastic perfection, to the deeper innate grace and beauty that lies within the entity.   Wabi Sabi in a way relates more to the inner than the outer.   Like many of you, my  lifetime  of ‘conditioning’ … had been to accept the standard ideal of what is Beautiful and to strive to obtain that exactly.  If it was on a magazine cover,  That Was Beautiful.  Beauty was found in THAT kind of form only. Heavens! don’t mess things up by trying to make the ‘ugly’ battered plant into a thing of eloquence and grace.

wabi sabi watercolour trees debiriley.com
Wabi Sabi watercolour trees debiriley.com

But Wabi Sabi changes this!    Reverses it,  so how I see the subject in my heart,  is  free to be expressed, to show the loveliness that it truly holds.    And with this changed approach to my art,  comes a greater inner serenity and fulfilment.  This in turn is conveyed and translated into my images as I create and paint. Tranquility of mind creates a centered and focused mind, that is ready and open for discoveries. When I am calm, relaxed I am at my best for learning, seeing and creating. We all are pretty much alike in this regard.

bamboo debiriley.com
Bamboo debiriley.com

Most of us perform better in a non anxious state of mind. Perfectionism and harsh self criticism only reinforce an anxious state.  Listening to soft music, nature music, or sitting in the garden, takes me into a lovely peaceful calm zone.  I may wander about the garden, looking for some simple natural shapes of old leaves or snail shells to observe. I find this liberating and revitalises my creative energy. Patterns of weathered benches and stones have a beautiful and imperfect quality that is refreshing.

sunrise debiriley.com
Wabi Sabi Tranquility sunrise debiriley.com

When I find the Dragon needs retaming  and I need more ZEN  –  I stop, pause, think: Wabi Sabi!

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10 thoughts on “Zen of Art: Taming the Dragon Perfectionism

    1. Thanks so much Leslie! every time I think “oh no, this one didn’t go so well” 😦
      you have a wonderful message waiting for me! Its really very nice …smiling now.

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  1. This is such a wonderful post Debi. I have read it more than once and will print it out to keep in the studio to tame my Dragon whenever it appears. Have a great week 🙂

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  2. I have read that the Navaho will purposely create an imperfection in their hand crafted rugs to make it “perfect”….amazing concept to create perfection by instilling a mistake in their art. It makes you think doesn’t it? I love the concept of Wabi-Sabi and the idea of imperfection and this is coming from a perfectionist! 🙂

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