Sunday, October 11, 2009

Picasso, creating like a child & the quest for perfection

Picasso is credited with declaring something to the effect of: 'It took me months to learn to draw/paint like a master and a lifetime to learn to draw/paint like a child'.
This is a profound statement for any artist, no matter the chosen media.
The child's expression is immediate, unencumbered, innocent, original, direct, real. Many times, creative people get that pure, childlike essence drained from their work in the name of 'perfection', very much to the detriment of their work.
I am a 3rd generation metalsmith. For most of my early training, I strove in vain for perfection in rather complicated fabrications.
Metal is a harsh mistress. It does not always allow the artist to control it. Often, one must submit to its demands.
One day, it dawned on me that I would never achieve perfection. Why would I want a perfect piece? It is evidence of the maker's hand that elevates the earthly work to rarefied art.

True and unique beauty is found in imperfection.
From that day forward, I decided to consciously distress and disfigure my work. A series of such work was met with critical disdain at a certain exhibition. Scandalous craftsmanship! Well...that was the point - I wanted to make art, not crafts. The battle had lines of definite division.
The irony? I effortlessly sold every piece in that "flawed" collection.
With all the machined pieces in the world, a handmade composition is a prized treasure.
We are delighted by that sublime beauty that comes from the human imperfection or nature.
I regret to admit that emotionally, I still have the desire for absolute perfection in my work. Rationally, I know this perfection is ultimately unattainable.
Nonsensical, but therein lies a hint of my own imperfection, which I must learn to accept.
(Above photos: Phul Sigil Amulet & Mala, collection of Ms. P. O'Neill; Brass, pearls, abalone, fiber; 2009 and
"Roadwork Badge"; Sterling, brass, copper, yellow gold, nickel; ca. 1980)


  1. Perfection is over-rated and extremely mentally tiring. Your "imperfect" work is unique and wonderful. It is amazing what you create! BRAVO!

    Your blog is written with such insight and intelligence....well done!

  2. Thank you for this beautiful reminder! Love what is written here and of course LOVE the mala amulet!

  3. I love the comment by Picasso. I've never been a huge fan of his work but I certainly agree with his sentiment. I also love your concept of imperfectionism. I am not an artist merely an observer of the arts, and so my commentary is from a strictly observational point of view, but I like the idea of intentionally "flawed" art. I've never seen, felt, or heard perfection anyway. The quest for perfection has put many a bit over the edge. The quest for imperfection is so real, as long as it is not carried to the extreme such as Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" which left me feeling quite cheated and defrauded.