I recently completed an art project I’ve been contemplating for months and working on for weeks. It started when we bought this house a year ago. I wanted a rad background for my Zoom calls, so we painted the office purple and installed a shelf, and my friend offered me a giant framed canvas they had sanded down and started to work on, but then didn’t like their project.
Their gift of a project they had tired of became my epic adventure.
I knew I wanted this frame to hold my awesome call backdrop. But I didn’t know what that art would be yet. I painted a few layers of white over the tree trunks my friend had drafted, and left a plain white canvas up for a good six months before any kind of vision formed.
And then I decided I wanted it to look like a geode.
But not just any geode.
A geode I broke and glued together when I was a kid.
It was the color of water on a pure, tropical beach untouched by humans. The kind of bright teal that you can barely believe exists in nature. It was gorgeous and smooth, like polished glass, except for the hole in the middle that glittered with raw crystals.
And I shattered it with one strike of a hammer.
I broke it because I was a little witch girl in high school. I am now a big witch girl* and would not be so brazen as to shatter a geode that I had imbued with my bond to my sister and broke because I was mad at her.
In the aftermath, worrying that I had irreparably damaged our relationship via geode, I glued it back together. Where it had once been smooth, now it had jagged cracks filled with craft glue. Where it had once looked like an untouched tide pool, now it looked like an amateur mosaic.
My sister and I, some 18 years later, are best friends.
Maybe nothing happened when I broke that geode.
Maybe the brokenness of blood relation and reattachment of deliberate bonds helped us stay together through the processing of our varied but shared traumas as we each left our family of origin at different times.
In any case, I broke the geode and glued it back together and wanted to capture the spirit and broken beauty of it in a painting.
I wanted to use a palette knife and make a textured surface for the geode and its broken pieces, repaired with gold in the cracks, representing the Japanese kintsugi technique of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer.
I placed an order from Michael’s for my birthday in April, seven months after receiving the canvas — two tubes of blue paint, a pack of gold leaf, and a container of modeling paste to give a textured effect. I did not open this box for another two months.
I wasn’t sure I could capture what I wanted.
So I just didn’t start.
And then one day, after realizing that I had been procrastinating on this art project for several weeks and months because of “house projects,” as I was teaching my clients not to procrastinate their creative pursuits with chores, I could no longer pretend I was doing anything but avoiding the project due to perfectionism.
The vision was so clear in my mind, and I knew it wouldn’t translate perfectly.
I started anyway.
I looked at geode-inspired paintings on Pinterest to get a feel for how the colors moved and what colors to use. And then I started in with the modeling paste mixed with acrylic paints in blues and whites. I had fun! It was fun to smear and smoosh and blend colors into each other.
As it was drying, I pressed gold leaf into the still-tacky paint and brushed off the excess when it had dried completely.
I was left with a pleasant, but not at all what I had planned for, piece of artwork. It looked more like an ocean than a geode, and I left it that way for a few weeks. Every time I saw it I was glad that I had done it, but it didn’t feel finished.
Finally I remembered the cracks from my vision and decided to add them. I looked up a tutorial on how to draw shattered glass and used what I learned to create a growing web of cracks between all the gold leaf pieces.
It looked fucking awesome, honestly. I was thrilled with it.
A few days later, I went in with gold acrylic paint and added gold to some of the cracks.
It finally feels finished, and even though it was nothing at all how I imagined it, it’s everything I wanted it to be. I love it more than I can express.
To me, it represents restoration and beauty in brokenness. It represents the constants in my life, held together by gold, even as other parts have shattered and fallen away. It represents love as the thing that holds me together.
I have been broken. I have started from scratch. I have left behind relationships and situations and circumstances that took all my strength to leave.
And I see myself reflected in this broken, imperfect artwork.
I did it in pieces and phases. I did as much as I was ready for. I let inspiration lead me.
And it’s beautiful. Because imperfection and inspiration are beautiful.
There are two things that happen when perfectionism takes control.
One: We never start, because we can’t live up to the expectations in our head.
Two: We think if we do start and don’t achieve the expectation, we failed.
I present a third option, because both of those options suck.
Three: We do the thing we’re scared of, and either love it or learn from it.
There is no failure when you’re creating. There is only practice.
Be imperfect on purpose.
PS. Perfectionism often co-mingles with other creative blocks. Find out yours and receive tailored advice to break through your blocks with my quick 8-question quiz!