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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lessons from my art class

I'm taking an art class this quarter and my instructor has given me a couple of pieces of wisdom that could really apply to other areas of my life.

After I've been working on a piece for a while, she'll come around to me and remind me to stand back a bit, and look at my work from a distance. She can see that I've become entranced with the details of my work, and overlook my progress with the "big picture".

If you like to craft or do needlework of any sort, then you've likely experienced this over-focus on the details. You see the flaws, because you are close to your work, but nobody else even notices what you perceive to be monumental errors. It isn't until I step back and try to see my work through fresh eyes that I can think to myself, "yeah, this looks pretty good!"

And I tend towards this narrow vision, in life itself. I focus on specific areas, those with which I feel I'm most failing. With my role in our family's finances, I sometimes feel I should be doing better -- more exacting, more precise, more perfect. I pretty much know that I'm doing great with our grocery budget. And I feel comfortable with how much we spend on utilities. But I do feel I could do better with other areas, like shopping around for a better rate for our car/home owner insurance. Or taking more economical vacations.

Then I'm reminded to step back, and look at our financial "big picture". We're on track with our goals. We are comfortable with our giving. And even when I'm critical with my spending choices, overall, we are quite sensible with our spending. While details do matter, fussing too much with the details detracts from my overall satisfaction with our finances.

There are no grades in my art class. I either show up and do the work to learn new skills, or I miss out. It's the process and not the final piece that matters. When I'm sewing a pair of pj pants for one of my daughters, I know I won't be graded on the final product. I could very easily buy a pair of pj pants of similar or even better quality than I sew. But that's not the point. The love is in the "making". And fortunately, there won't be a financial report card issued at the end of this life. If I don't manage every aspect of our finances perfectly, we'll still be okay. The big picture looks good.


  1. I too am a detail person and have had to learn to step back and look at the big picture. I'm getting pretty good at looking at the big picture--for a little while. I'm still working on seeing the big picture first and the details second.

    I'd like to hear more about your art class. While there are some areas of my life I think I'm creative, art is not one of them. I'm always fascinated by the process and the people who can create it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      One of the most significant things I've learned from art instructors (drawing instructors, in particular) is what "talent" really is. It's not this innate ability to draw that someone is born with. (Certainly, a select few people are born with special abilities.) But for the most part, the true "talent" is not in the ability, but in someone's "passion" to continue trying and working on depicting what one sees. Learning to draw what one sees is developed with practice.

      If it's something that you'd find fun and self-challenging, you should try an adult education art class. It's really quite fun! I look forward to my class each week.

    2. What I learned at art class is that it's a craft that we can be taught. Even if you are "creative", techniques need to be learned. Our class was taught the same techniques, yet everyone's result was a little different, what I call personal style. Whatever the craft is, we tend to agonize over our "mistakes" because we know where they are, and we even sometimes point them out to others who wouldn't notice. Sometimes a mistake leads to a breakthrough and a development of style.

    3. Hi Cathy,
      It is interesting how we can all be taught the same thing, but our own spin on the carry-out. I'm learning not to point out my flaws to everyone in the room! I'm critical enough of myself. I certainly don't need everyone else to be critical of me!

  2. I just posted something similar on my blog, about seeing the Big Picture. Different subjects altogether but same general idea! LOL How important it is for us to have an accurate perspective.

    1. Hi Linda,
      I just checked your post out, on your "big picture" moment. (great minds . . .)
      It really is helpful to step back to see the big picture. I'd guess that those of us who read/write these blogs are conscientious people, who work hard to do well in most areas of our lives. The big picture view can reveal this work, when we start to hone in on the details to closely.

  3. I'm also intrigued by your art class. Both of my kids are creative and my daughter really seems to have a knack for art. I've gotten to know her art teacher this year (she has started an art class with my kids and her kids, which has been so fun) and her perspective on art sounds similar to what your art instructors are teaching you. The difference I notice with my daughter is that she really hones in on what the teacher is saying to enhance her artwork, and it shows. Sometimes the teacher has classes for adults and I might take advantage of that. :)

    I like your comments about seeing the big picture. I can be very critical of myself--I don't bat an eye when someone else has an "oops" but I spend way too much time ruminating over my own lack-of-being-perfect. There's an old Michael Card song about "there is a joy in the journey ... "--so true!

    1. Hi Kris,
      oh definitely, if she offers an adult class, you'd enjoy it!

      You know, I'm always telling my kids not to be so self-critical of what they do. Yet, what kind of example am I setting, by being overly critical with my own work?! I just need to remind myself to look at my big picture more often.

  4. This is a fantastic reminder. It's sooo easy to miss the forest for the trees.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Yeah, that's me, can't see the forest for the trees! It's a really easy trap to fall into for many of us.

  5. We grow up and hear the message of perfection over and over. Practice, but practice perfectly, learn and make perfect grades, do it perfectly or don't do it at all. It seems to be an underlying theme of our society, but we live in an imperfect world. In fact, in nature the most beautiful things have little symmetry, odd angles, and unusual shapes, yet they are still gorgeous. I took an art class once where we were instructed to take our "perfectly done" pieces and mess them up. Blurring some of the lines gave a new and for the most part improved product. I try to keep the lines blurred in life now too or I will become an adherent to rigidity instead of enjoying each day for what it is.

    1. Hi Anne,
      A fun exercise my art instructor makes us do some times, is draw in ink. There's no opportunity to make corrections and we just have to live with our first try on a sketch.

      I think you're right about the beauty in nature not adhering to any manmade ideas of perfection. You're attitude must certainly make each day enjoyable!


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