Wednesday, 30 April 2014

It's okay to suck. Even Dave Grohl says so.

I came across some quotes by Dave Grohl, the inspired musician behind the Foo Fighters and Nirvana.  And he's got me thinking about the notion of perfection in art.

Nowadays, people are obsessed with perfection.  The internet has made this trend much worse.  When you look around for pics of painted miniatures, it's only natural to look at the works of the best miniature painters out there, but what does this do to your psyche?

I constantly hear people bitch and moan that they will never attain that level of skill.  That it's not even worth the effort to try.

Did you ever stop to consider what would have happened if people like Marike Reimer, Karol Rudyk, James Wappel, or Victoria Lamb thought this back when they were comparative newcomers to painting?

I'm not saying that people shouldn't look up to the masters of miniature painting.  Studying their works should be inspiring, not depressing.  If every canvas artist that ever looked at the Mona Lisa ended up giving up on painting because they weren't automatically as good as Leonardo DaVinci, then art would have ended back in the Renaissance.

What you need to do is just paint.  Paint without inhibition.  Paint without worrying about being judged.  Paint whatever you enjoy.  Paint big projects.  Paint small projects.  Paint with the full intention of screwing up a paintjob, and a perfectly good model.  Paint to learn, not to be perfect.  Paint to fail, because that's perfectly fine too.

This stuff isn't life and death.  No one is going to die because you couldn't paint NMM on your Blood Angel special character model as well as Darren Latham.  Your first attempts might be totally laughable, but that's okay.  Your next few attempts might be nearly as tragic, but that's okay too.  Eventually you'll either get it, or you'll develop your own style entirely (which will be just as valid as what's been done by others).

But to give up trying is crap.  If you say, "What's the point?  I'll never be as good as that", those words just go to show how fragile your ego is.

Harsh words?  Yeah, but I've heard the whiny cop-out by way too many people, over the course of way too many years, to sugarcoat how I feel when I hear people give excuses as to why they don't TRY anymore.

I find beauty in the most fundamentally flawed paintjobs.  There are just some paintjobs where you can almost see the effort that went into them.  When an artist stresses and stretches their limits, and really tries to get better, that's beauty.  It doesn't have to be perfect, because perfection isn't necessarily art.  Art is emotion, and investing emotion into your work is what's important.

Technical skill can be marvelled at, if that skill is earned by practice and perseverance.  What people need to understand is that they just need the willingness to learn, and to try.

On that note, I'd like to voice one of my other pet peeves: people who get too comfortable with their current skill level, and never try new things for fear of messing up a bit.  It may feel like a step backward to them (dealing with frustration is something they're not used to after being in a comfortable rut for so long), but trying out new techniques and tools is always a step forward.

I know people who are absolute masters at certain aspects of painting.  One guy is a tremendous speed painter, able to crank out fully painted armies practically overnight.  Another guy can produce the most flawless blends, but hasn't shown much interest in painting freehand, or other effects.  Another is a master conversion expert, producing wondrous and unique miniatures out of spare parts, but then just slops paint on it haphazardly.

The thing these painters / modellers have in common is that they are afraid of pushing into areas that they aren't as confident in.  They dismiss the value of other aspects of painting, holding only their specialty up as legitimate, and of paramount value.  What that tells me is that they lack the courage to try improving in other fields, for fear of their efforts not living up to the high standards they have set out for themselves in the field that they are most comfortable in.

Let it go, people.  Who gives a sh*t?  Forget the fear of failure, and just give it a try.  It's not life and death, it's just paint on a model.  Just play around with your projects, and try new things out, and don't worry about what other people think.  Even if you think you are hot crap on a stick, find something that scares you and give it a try.  Don't be afraid to feel like a scared new painter all over again, and try and reinvent yourself once in awhile.  Get out of your rut and boldly go in new directions.

We just need to let go of this idea of perfection in art.  It's BS, and if we obsess about it, we're never going to just let loose and have fun.

And that's the thing.  Nirvana wasn't the most perfect band in the world, but back in 12th grade, I thought it was sheer chaotic awesomeness.  I have to admit that I'm not the biggest Foo Fighters fan, but I really like Dave's philosophy about music, and would like to apply it to my art.  Maybe in the end, I'll end up having more fun.


  1. I agree with all if this. I fit into the category that fears to try advanced techniques. I recently have been trying OSL. NMM, is something I still have never tried as of yet. I am still working on mastering shading and true metal techniques.

    Others around me seem to praise my painting but I reallt never feel happy with it. Until I can look at my work and know I put everything I had into it and it looks like a top tier painter did it, I dont think Ill be happy.

    Hell, we all have our demons. Im at a level right now where I think the guidance of a master would truly help refine my work. If your interested please take a look and feel free to comment.

    I wanted to attend Megs class but money and logistics didnt come together. I would have loved that.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, guys.

    Meg Maples put it this way: Mistakes are proof that you are trying.

    Sums up all of the above quite nicely in one sentence. But I've never been all that good at being succinct.

  3. Dave Grohl brought me here. Great post- even a year later.

    1. Thanks! Dave is awesome, and definitely the real deal as far as music is concerned. We could all learn something from his approach to music-as-art.

  4. I heartily approve of this post.

    Do your best. When judging, appreciate that people are doing their best. Encourage, do not discourage.

    1. Thanks.

      One should never talk smack about someone else's painting, if it's obvious that that person was trying to push the limits of their painting. That being said, I might poke fun at some of my friends (and only my friends) if I think they are just going through the motions, and not challenging themselves or putting a lot of thought into their work (just as I should be challenging myself each time I paint).

      As for helpful criticism? Some people are very touchy about "tips". If they're feeling insecure and uncertain about their work, pointing out any percieved shortcomings might discourage them from pursuing painting further. In that particular case, I resort to the coaching technique that is referred to as the "Sh*t Sandwich".

      You take an aspect of the work you like, and comment on that. Then you gently bring up the part you think could be improved. Finally, you bring up another aspect of the work you really liked. Voila! The sh*t sandwich, which makes almost any criticism palatable!

      I totally agree with your sentiment. The whole point is to do what you can to help fuel people's desire to get better... not to smother the fragile spark that could potentially lead to a nice bonfire.