not another 'instagram worthy' photo

Social media is great; this is not a rant against it. This is especially not  a rant against Instagram. I love it, and overuse it daily to look at stuff and post my own stuff. I am a chronic 'over-sharer' and that is just the way it is. The thing that frustrates me about things like Instagram is that it can make people feel like their photos are not good enough. It's not the right perspective, something is off-centred or there is keystoning happening because of the tiny phone lense and you weren't able to stand far enough away from what you were taking a picture of, to prevent it. The scenery wasn't 'epic' enough or someone stepped into the frame just as you were about to take the perfect shot and now there are loads of people and the moment has passed so why bother? 

Clients get like that sometimes when choosing photos for me to paint for them. Sometimes I get messages like 'I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities, and these photos don't do (blankety-balnk place/person/thing) justice. I don't know if this is good enough to paint.' Don't get me wrong, I fall into this trap too, with things I photograph to paint and things I post to my own IG feed. But then I make myself stop and answer one question:

  'Justina, do  you  think this is cool?' 

And if that answer is yes, then I post it or paint it.  

Thankfully I am constantly reminded that it's not the perfect photo, or 'Instagram worthy' photo that makes an interesting painting. It's the quirky, keystoned, slightly blurred, poorly lit ones that seem to work best, at least for my style of painting. But judging by the myriad of subject matter that many of the artists I admire, both dead and posting to IG, I am not alone in this vein of thinking.

It doesn't need to be perfect  , it needs to be interesting. 

I think this applies to photos, paintings, drawings, pottery, writing, singing, cooking, interior decorating, make-up, fashion and all manner of other creative endeavours which are very numerous.  

I ripped out so many sketchbook pages as a teenager because one line, ONE line, in a drawing wasn't perfect. Drawing was so stressful. I hated it! It was not something I enjoyed doing, but I was so determined to get good, to make things look super realistic, so I kept at it, kept stressing, kept ripping pages out and getting mad. When I started looking at more art, I began to realize the artists and works that I admired most, weren't after realism. Their lines were loose, the shapes were not perfect, but you could tell what they were, the colours were interesting but not realistic. It looked like the people who created some of these pieces I was looking at were having fun. I was not having any fun. So maybe perfection in drawing didn't matter. So what if my pencil sketches looked nothing like Michelangelo's? Who cares if the winter scene I painted in watercolour wasn't an exact replica of what I saw? The more important questions are:

Did I have fun painting/drawing this? 

Do I like how it looks overall?   

I figure if you can answer yes to both of those, then whatever you made was a success, so keep at it or move onto the next thing. Start a new thing, and strive to answer yes to those two questions, and then start another thing, and so on. 

Perhaps this is the slackers approach to making art. Or perhaps I think this way because I didn't go to art school, so I don't know much about technique or the hard and fast rules of composition and colour theory. I figure these are questions you answer yourself, everyday, while making stuff. Just you and your project. Supposedly the most celebrated artists knew these 'rules' and then spent the rest of their careers breaking them. So what happens if you never learned them in the first place, if you actually give zero fucks  and just go ahead and    do it  ?

This is a very long-winded preamble to a commission I finished last week that I really love. It was from a blurry photo my cousin sent me of a street scene on a rainy night, either taken from a moving vehicle or while walking, I'm not certain. I first looked at the photo and nearly emailed her back asking for a crisper image if she had one, and then I looked again and saw things I really liked about the photo. The light reflections on the wet pavement, the light trails of moving vehicles in front of the buildings, and the black human shape with what appears to be an umbrella obscuring the rest of the shining lights in the foreground to the left. 

cabaret, mixed media on canvas, 12x16(in), commission, 2017

cabaret, mixed media on canvas, 12x16(in), commission, 2017

A crisper image would have probably still led to an interesting painting, but this was a good challenge and (another) reminder to myself that making art (for me) is not about achieving  perfection, it's about making images interesting. It's one of the main reasons I started adding paper and ink to my painting process. I wanted to increase the possibilities of making my paintings interesting to work on and look at.

I hope this helps or encourages someone. HappyThursday.