Perfectionism: Overcoming the Artist’s Hurdle

When you are looking for a creative escape, have you ever stopped before you start because you fear the end result won’t be the perfect picture you’ve painted in your mind? This all-or-nothing attitude of perfectionism can lead to analysis paralysis – where you overanalyze a situation to the point that you are unable to move forward on a decision. This is when perfectionism becomes a problem – when perfectionism gets in the way of performance.

Personally, I fall into this unhealthy loop too often. I’ll feel a wad of emotions and the need to untangle it through creativity, but I’ll talk myself out of it for fear of not attaining perfection. That’s a sure way to fail before even trying. Perfectionism is a flaw.

To push past this mental block, I decided to talk to artists – people who seem to know how to embrace the process instead of focusing JUST on the end result. I was honored to hear from three artists – all with different creative mediums and all in different walks of life. I hope reading their answers (and seeing their work) inspires you to knock down perfectionism’s barriers and create.

MCH Artwork

Morgan with MCH Artwork is a drip artist. She starts on an easel with brush and acrylic paint and then moves the canvas to the ground where the magic happens! She drips latex paint from a pallet knife above the canvas and then details and outlines the drips to bring all the layers together into one beautiful work.

  1. Do you strive to be perfect in your art?

I strive to be proud of what I’ve created. Sometimes that means I just appreciate the process, and then tweak the results until I’m pleased. Other times it just flows and comes together effortlessly. Both are part of creating. Perfection isn’t my goal. But quality control is a thing – I’ve started over many times on a fresh canvas when I’ve overworked a piece to try to “get it right”. It’s okay to admit when it just isn’t going to work.

2. What do you do when you make mistakes in your artwork?

For commissions, particularly any that are in the portrait realm, I worry that it won’t convey the essence of the moment or personality because it’s usually just from a reference photograph that I’m working from. And my eyes see it the way my eyes see it – I can’t change that. I like to please clients, which is good. But I can overthink when working on something so personal for them.

3. Why did you choose your particular artistic medium and what inspires you to create?

I’ve always been an artist. I loved sketching when I was younger and had it as an outlet when I got married and as I stayed at home with my three boys. After losing my first husband to suicide in 2010, the need to create and process sorrow and loss was huge. I had been repainting old furniture and had extra house paint, so decided to see what would happen if I dripped some on a canvas – and now I can’t look at something without wondering how I could drip it!

4. How does it feel when you create?

Creating is part of what makes me feel purposeful. It’s the one place I can go and totally lose track of time. It’s when I feel used by my Creator the most – that I’m using the gift he gave little ol’ me to show His love and care for others. It’s the best.

5. What kind of atmosphere or space do you do your best work in?

Distractions are awful for me, which is a challenge with a houseful of children! I’m blessed to have a studio connected to my house and, for the most part, it stays sacred for mama’s escape!

6. Is there an artist in everyone? If so, what does it take to find it?

Absolutely!!! I think an artist is someone who connects others and that can be done in so many areas of life. There is an art to all we do. I think it’s not a matter of finding it but just an acknowledgement of it already being there within us.

I think an artist is someone who connects others and that can be done in so many areas of life.

Morgan, MCH Artwork

Follow MCH Artwork on Instagram and check out her website – now including an online shop!

Still Elm

Lisa at Still Elm is a fiber dye artist. She dyes wool strands and suspends them from wood to create two-dimensional textured artwork. 

  1. Do you strive to be perfect in your art? 

The idea of perfection is tricky. I’ve always struggled with attempting to achieve perfectionism and I’ve really tried to loosen my grip on that through fiber dyeing. Sometimes it keeps us too restrained and prevents us from exploring, which in turn leads to us learning. Of course, I want to be happy with the end result but I try to remain open to what that will look like. 

2. What do you do when you make mistakes in your artwork? 

I try to take a step back to gain a bit of perspective on the piece. I usually put the project on hold until the next day, come back to it with a pair of fresh eyes, and readjust my expectations. Sometimes my entire initial concept needs to shift and sometimes my favorite results stem from those initial ‘mistakes’. There are also times there is no recovering, haha, and you take it as a learned lesson. I’m still such a beginner, so I’ve had to reframe mistakes as learning opportunities a lot! 

Sometimes my favorite results stem from those initial ‘mistakes’.

Lisa with Still Elm

3. Why did you choose your particular artistic medium and what inspires you to create?

My background is in interior design and that really came into play when starting out. My wife and I were getting settled as first-time homeowners and I knew I wanted a piece of art to hang in our living room, but I wanted something with texture….so I began experimenting! Some of my biggest inspirations are nature, how color palettes interact with one another, and well-designed interiors.

4. How does it feel when you create? 

It feels freeing and acts as a kind of escape for me. All of my overactive thinking sort of comes to a halt and I’m able to pour my full attention into what I’m creating. 

5. What kind of atmosphere or space do you do your best work in? 

I have to have music playing….usually stuff I’ve heard before that I can really zone out to and sing along with. When the weather cooperates, I love when I can work outside and have my pieces dry in the fresh air. It works out well for any potential mess too!

6. Is there an artist in everyone? If so, what does it take to find it?

I think so, even when they don’t resonate with the words creative or artistic. I think it’s usually a matter of finding a medium you are interested in by trying new things and giving yourself the grace (and time) to play around.

Be sure to check out Still Elm on Instagram and her Etsy shop.

Ana Treasure Box

Ana is a silk artist from the south of France. She makes one-of-a-kind handpainted silk scarves.

Ana says she creates her scarves in a variety of styles, so that everyone can find what they are looking for. This also helps her create scarves that reflect the mood and character of those who wear them. They all have one thing in common: vibrant colors!

  1. Do you strive to be perfect in your art? 

I am creating luxury items and that is why I always use high quality materials: natural fabrics and professional dyes that are resistant to washing and fading. This ensures that my work will please the customer for many years. I would like to be perfect, and when I make a small mistake or a small imperfection, this drives me nuts. However, I know that I’ll probably be the only one noticing it.

2. What do you do when you make mistakes in your artwork? 

It depends on what kind of mistake it is. If it is something that I really don’t like, I will probably repurpose it. For example, if it is a scarf, I will make twilly out of it or scrunchies. But if it is something small, most of the time, I will leave it as it is. In the case of a custom order, I would communicate it to the customer to see what they think about it.

3. Why did you choose your particular artistic medium and what inspires you to create?

After trying many forms of art, I fell in love with silk painting which became my “true art passion.”

Once, a friend of mine invited me to attend a workshop that she thought was going to be on watercolour. It actually turned out to be silk painting. I was fascinated by it and decided to continue. The more I learned about it, the more my passion grew. I have since attended several masterclasses and I love experimenting with different techniques.

A lot of my inspiration comes through travel. I love discovering new places. Every time I go somewhere new, my head is filled with ideas on what to create next.

4. How does it feel when you create? 

I totally immerse myself in the process and I feel like time does not exist.

5. What kind of atmosphere or space do you do your best work in? 

I like to work at home in a comfortable environment so I can just focus on creating and nothing else. Sometimes when I paint, I will also listen to music to create a specific ambiance.

6. Is there an artist in everyone? If so, what does it take to find it?

Everybody can be an artist but you need to learn how to appreciate your surroundings – the beauty in everything from the small details to the big panorama. You just need to understand what you enjoy in what is around you. Once you know how to do this, you can share it with other people.

I love my scarf that I called “Greetings from Valensole.” I painted it after we had a trip with my husband to the lavender fields in Valensole area. This place is so magical and smells amazing, especially during summer days when the flowers bloom and you can see the beautiful blue sky. I wanted to immortalize this charming spirit on a scarf, so you can have a piece of Provence with you all year round.

You can follow Ana Treasure Box on Facebook, Instagram and her Etsy shop.

Getting through Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety isn’t as well known as postpartum depression. I actually didn’t know about it until I was pregnant. According to Postpartum Support International, “approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety.”

In this post, I’m getting a little more vulnerable as I tell you my journey through postpartum anxiety. This is not medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. I’m hoping by sharing my story that you can find someone to identify with if you think you may have postpartum anxiety and that you can find courage to seek help.

Realizing I Had Anxiety

In early 2019, I started therapy. I attributed my anxiety in large part to my job in a high-stress industry where I felt like I had to drop what I was doing and always be available at a moment’s call. I had been trying to find a new gig for a while but job hunting wasn’t going in my favor. I felt defeated and stuck, but I needed help learning to deal with my situation.

Right away, my therapist could tell how much anxiety consumed me. I would worry about potentially getting a call from work, my mother going on a trip or a doctor check-up. I’d constantly think about the future and plan out conversations in my head before they happened.

It was pleasing to have a third party listen to me and it seemed my therapist could easily point me in the right direction. Soon after starting therapy, I got a new job and the stress lessened but did not disappear.

When I got pregnant later that year, the anxiety dialed back up. I took seven pregnancy tests before my initial appointment. I was constantly worried I would lose my daughter, even into the third trimester, despite having a healthy pregnancy. My therapist warned me that I could experience postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety after birth.

Anxiety after Giving Birth

You know that beautiful moment moms talk about when their baby is first put on their chest? My beautiful moment came when I heard my daughter’s loud cries as she took her first breaths of air. I looked over at her being weighed and measured by the nurse, her daddy awestruck at this sweet little screaming girl and my eyes filled with tears. She was finally here. I could hold her in my arms. Her cries weren’t a bother.

Although her cries weren’t anxiety inducing, in the weeks that followed, worry set in. I became worried if she was eating enough, getting enough tummy time, taking long-enough naps. Did she have thrush, reflux, lactose sensitivity (we had a bit of feeding trouble for a bit)? Was I doing enough as a mom?

Having an Anxiety Attack

As my maternity leave came to a close, the anxiety increased. Cora, who was eight-weeks-old at the time, would be going to day care. It was one my husband and I had previously vetted and loved, but now, my mind only thought of it as a place filled with germs. I was TERRIFIED of her first sickness and knew it would come soon. In the days leading up to her first day, I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up and stare at the clock for an hour or two of intrusive thoughts.

Eventually, though, the day arrived. I took her to day care, feeling weird about passing my child over to a stranger and expecting them to know what to do with her. She had all these quirks I wanted to explain. This day is hard for lots of mamas.

I felt empty and sick when I got back home and prepared for work. My knees were weak, legs shaky and standing seemed impossible. My gut churned with nausea and worry. My vision blurred. My heart raced. My mind flooded with news stories of the “double-barrel flu season” and RSV that was “three times higher” that year.

How would I get my child, just two-months-old, through this? Could I call on my family who lived 4.5 hours away for help? Was I being dramatic? What if I didn’t notice signs of trouble quickly enough?

Mind you, the sickness had not even happened yet (though her first cold did come in about a week). This was an anxiety attack. Luckily, I knew what was happening after hearing of loved ones feeling similar and sudden senses of dread.

At some point, I was able to take myself through the motions of getting ready for work and faked a smile the rest of the day. Other work mamas understood the pain and that was comforting. I called the day care three times that day to check in on her.

In the months that followed, I watched the day care’s app like a hawk to check when they fed her, how much she ate (She drank two ounces less. Is she feeling ill?), how long she slept (Was it too short or too long of a nap?) and how many dirty diapers she had and I charted it all in a notebook that I kept since she was born. She was about 5-months-old before I decided to let go of the notebook.

Starting Medication for Anxiety

Like I mentioned before, I knew I had anxiety before pregnancy but had started to feel like I was gaining control of it. However, with the flood of hormones after birth, the anxiety was too intense to handle any longer. I felt crazy with worry.

Eventually, I took the plunge and asked for help. I was prescribed a low dose of a non-addictive antidepressant that also helped with anxiety and was safe for breastfeeding. (Very important to work with a doctor to find the right medication and dosage.) It took a couple of weeks to kick in.

During that couple of weeks, the fight or flight response battled it out in my body. Anxiety would want to make my heart race, but my head would tell me, “Nah, we don’t have to worry about that.” It was a strange sensation, but I was happy to see the medicine was starting to work.

To be honest, I was scared to be on medication because I was ashamed. Even though I preached to people who felt anxiety or depression that there was absolutely nothing wrong with getting medicine to help with mental issues, in my mind, I thought I would catch myself before I got to that point.

After being on medication for a year now, I am glad I did it. It’s not something I will be on forever, but it helped me realize I don’t have to worry so much and am capable of making the space around me calmer. I see now how important it was for me to get help to reach this point.

There have been setbacks. It’s not like I will never feel anxiety again, but the anxiety I feel every now and then is much more controllable. I know life goes on just fine when I don’t worry so much and all the things I worry about don’t necessarily come to fruition.

Continuing My Journey of Self Care

In 2021, I am continuing my journey of self care. 2020 was spent clearing the clutter from my home and from my mind (can’t be the only one who did this, right?). This year, I’ve mapped out goals through a vision board, plan to take on new hobbies and plan to return to some hobbies that helped me release pent up energy in the past. Some activities that brought relief for me in the past include fitness, reading, yoga and spending time in nature.

You Are Not Alone

Mamas, if you are feeling postpartum anxiety, I empathize with you. I hope sharing my story shows that you are not alone in how you feel, you are not crazy for how you feel, and you are nothing less when you ask for help. By seeking help – whether that is by reaching out to your community of friends and family, by talking to a therapist, by starting medication, by reading a self-help book, by releasing your stress in a hobby – you are showing your strength.

You are showing those close to you how important it is to love yourself and not let your life rot in worry. You are becoming the best version of yourself, which is only accomplished by first taking care of yourself.

A poet whose work I’ve recently fallen in love with. Her writing perfectly captures parenthood and the emotions that stir with it.

Below are some resources on postpartum anxiety and a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to moms if you want to build your community of support.

Resources

Postpartum Support International

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Facebook Groups

Jess Hover & Friends

Mom Check 7

If you have any other resources you think would be helpful, please leave them in the comments below. ❤ Thanks for listening.

Creating a Couple’s Vision Board

I am walking into 2021 with a focus. 2020 was a huge balancing act for us all and most of us are leaving it likely feeling worn out and spread thin. Personally, it’s been a year where all I can honestly look back and say is, “I tried.”

That being said, I have a few themes for myself for the new year: wellness, intention and connection. As a gentle and inspirational reminder of these themes, I spent time with my husband creating a couple’s vision board so we could look over everything we wanted to accomplish in 2021.

How a Couple’s Vision Board Works and Vision Board Benefits

A vision board is a collage of pictures, quotes and affirmations that resonate with you and that are used to motivate and inspire you to hit your personal goals. After 2020, I feel like we could all use some of this positive energy.

Working on this project together with my husband allowed us to reflect on our lives as they are separately, together and as a family and to talk about goals we have for each area of our lives. Hearing each other’s goals got us on the same page and allowed us to think of opportunities we can give each other to pursue our goals – giving him a break on the weekends to play guitar, writing out workout plans together, etc.

I will admit, he did think the project was going to be corny but he enjoyed doing it in the end. 🙂 It was a fun and crafty New Year’s Eve project.

For this vision board, we used a seven-spoke wellness wheel. The seven-spoke wheel focused on areas of life we wanted to truly work on: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental and financial. There are also eight-spoke wellness wheels and six-spoke wellness wheels if you are interested in those instead.

Vision Board Reflection Questions

Here are a few reflection questions that got us started on choosing topics for our vision board.

  • What brings happiness and peace to your life?
  • Which areas of your life need more attention?
  • What accomplishments would you like to achieve by the end of the year?
  • Which actions will move your life forward in a healthier direction?

Vision Board Materials

Your vision board materials will depend on where you want your vision board to exist. Is your vision board your desktop background or phone background? Is it a poster in your room or a collage on your refrigerator?

If you want your vision board to be digital, I would suggest using Canva (which you can use for free), choosing a phone background, desktop background or poster template and having fun searching for free stock photos, picking different elements, placing text wherever you want it to go and uploading your own photos to add to the mix.

We decided to go with the old-school method of cutting out photos and pasting them on thick paper. We decided to hang our vision board on our refrigerator where we would both see it each day.

The materials we used were:

  • Inspirational photos and/or quotes found online, in magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Printer paper if you are printing photos
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick

We spent our New Year’s Eve cutting out photos and pasting together our vision board collage on our sunroom floor while we watched Netflix.

Vision Board Photo Examples

You want to be sure your images and quotes embody your goals and inspire you or trigger a response when you see them. If you are looking for vision board photos online, I’ve created a Pinterest board where I placed some examples that personally resonated with me.

I also created some graphics on Canva that you can feel free to use!

Hello, 2021!

As we close the book on 2020, I want to highlight the parts of the year I was grateful for that I would not have experienced otherwise. I got to be an eye-witness to most all of my daughter’s firsts during year one of her life – smiling, rolling over, army crawling, big girl crawling, words, walking. I’m thankful for the extra time I was able to spend with her and my husband. That was truly the best part of the year.

To those reading this, I hope 2021 shines brighter for you. I hope you get the break you deserve, the love and connection you crave, and hit the achievements you wish to accomplish. Maybe spend your first couple of hours of the new year making a vision board with us and you’ll know at the end of 2021 that you envisioned what you wanted, you went for it, you fought for it and you made it.