What I like and dislike most about making art is that there's a very thin line between how you're living your life, and the quality of the things you produce. In most fields, the very definition of professionalism is that the quality of your work should have nothing to do with your personal life. You should be able to deliver consistently good work regardless of which stage of your life you are in.
In art, it's the opposite. Today, I received a prompt from my advanced painting class teacher. It's an idiom: cry over spilt milk. Other students in the class received other idioms, and I have reason to believe that the idioms weren't distributed randomly. The challenge is that we are not allowed to be figurative in expressing any of the nouns in the idiom.
I started scribbling:
cry over spilt milk = the anti-don't-cry-over-spilt-milk
emotions as neutrality// refraining from qualitative judgment
My teacher looked over my sketchbook and said, "these are all possible interpretations of the phrase, but what about a more direct approach to conveying the essence of this idiom?"
The essence of this idiom?
Crying over spilt milk= letting mistakes happen= embracing uncertainties and mistakes in my painting?
How on earth can I express that visually and with originality?
And then it occurs to me: it's not about how, but rather, diving into what the idioms actually mean to me.
"Take risks!", "challenge yourself!", "embrace uncertainties!", these phrases have been repeated to me a million times by both people who know what they are talking about, and people who are taking faux-challenges (i.e. they are still in confident control of the outcome but they brand the tasks as "formidable challenges"). To truly embrace mistakes is terribly difficult. It's about not taking the outcome of your work too seriously, and focusing on the learnings during the process. Yet, we sometimes unconsciously use this as an excuse to slack or not push the quality of our final product as far as possible. It's an intricate balance, one that requires a supreme level of self-awareness and honesty. What further complicates things is that we can't identify what are mistakes and what aren't until in hindsight. They are just something that inevitably happens when you are pushing yourself to the next frontiers.
I have recently been quite stressed out about having to make some decisions about my post-graduation plans. The stress comes from the fact that I know where I ultimately want to be, but I know not the best route to go about it. Subconsciously, I started to tell myself to take my life less seriously, and admit the fact that I can never be omniscient even if it's about my own life. Maybe there is no best route, or that the best route is whatever your choices lead you. There's no (known) parallel universe so we shouldn't be bothered to compete with the infinite possibilities outside of our chosen route.
One of my greatest character flaw is that I quite often take myself too seriously. I rediscovered this via making art. Let's hope that the same medium can help me break away from this mentality one day.