joanne shih

lettering, illustration, design

Why Share Imperfect Work?

art processJoanne Shih2 Comments

The start of a new year is always prime time for setting new goals and identifying what you want to accomplish, improve, or develop in the year ahead. This year - amongst other goals (like blogging!) - I'm challenging myself to develop my painting and illustration skills further. While I still enjoy hand-lettering and hope to continue incorporating that in my work, I want to stop putting myself in a box when it comes to an artistic focus and really let myself explore. My ever evolving creative journey continues... 

One thing that I am grateful to have cultivated in the 3+ years of pursuing this creative career path is a habit of sharing imperfect and in-process work on my Instagram - as scary as it (still) is sometimes. Today I'm going to share the reasons why I do this, in the hopes of encouraging anyone who might be embarking on a new project or learning a new skill to share your work long before it's "perfect"!

My first "larger" gouache illustration that I finished two days ago - an 11x15" piece. Lots of imperfections and unintentional wonkiness. Learned a lot while doing this, mostly revolving around how little patience I have with myself when it comes to painting!

My first "larger" gouache illustration that I finished two days ago - an 11x15" piece. Lots of imperfections and unintentional wonkiness. Learned a lot while doing this, mostly revolving around how little patience I have with myself when it comes to painting!

So... why share that piece of art/writing/music/etc that you think needs so much work before anyone can see it?

  1. Baby steps are everything. If your goal is to eventually have your work out there, whether it's writing, music, painting, etc., you have to start somewhere. One of my favorite mantras at the moment is "Start where you are." It's rather obvious ("where else can I start?"), but let's be real: we often want to start somewhere that's about 100 steps ahead of where we actually are. By showing your work early on in your creative journey, you ground yourself in the present reality and it's much easier to build on that, rather than making art in a vacuum and waiting until a point where you are "good enough" to show your work. As a recovering perfectionist, I know I would be waiting for years and years before I considered my work "good enough." Which brings me to my next reason....
  2. You are your own worst critic. Often only we see all the flaws and imperfections of what we've made. Look at your work with a critical eye in order to improve, but don't let your inner critic deprive others from seeing your art. By self-determining that your work isn't worth sharing with others, you rob yourself from the potential joy of receiving encouragement from others (and the potential skin-thickening of receiving criticism - which in my experience happens far less frequently). In the words of Andy Warhol, "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
  3. Perfection is a trap. Don't fall for it! It's great to aim for excellence and to improve your skills, but if you're like me, aiming for perfection is incredibly paralyzing and often prevents one from even trying. One of the ways I combat falling into the perfection trap is by sharing things I know are not perfect. In doing this, it's almost like I'm giving myself a permission slip to continue making wonky things, because I see that I put my wonky work out there and *spoiler alert* I survived and I am still making art and the perfection police didn't come after me. (I'm still figuring out my writing style but one thing you can probably count on from me is melodramaticism.)
  4. It's a great way to document your *inevitable* progress which may in turn inspire others to begin. Seeing where you started is both encouraging for you, when you're looking back (yes, you will cringe at your early work but think about it this way: the more it makes you cringe, the more you've likely progressed in your art! .... or you are just really hard on yourself. Give yourself a break, dude!), and for others who may be just starting. I love when artists I admire post things that are imperfect or are works-in-progress, and I also love seeing where they started. No one is encouraged by seeing someone achieve perfection, from day 1, and then day after day after that. At least I know I'm not - if you are, please let me know in the comments :)
  5. Posting imperfect work combats the toxic nature of social media, where more often than not, posts are curated, picture-perfect highlights of others' lives/careers and leave you feeling like you're somehow behind on all aspects of life. It's refreshing to see things that are not that. If nothing else, I hope to continue posting things that are imperfect and real and not-all-put-together because personally, that's what I want to experience when I'm on social media.

Have I convinced you yet to share your imperfect work? I hope so! In my next post, I'll be sharing some of my tips for *how* to do this. If you have any questions or thoughts you'd like me to address in that post, leave me a comment below!