When you see a masterpiece – a work of art – it can take your breath away. How is it possible that something could be so beautiful? So divine? So amazing? When you look at a masterpiece it is easy to forget that what you are seeing is a final product – a work of art in its final stage of completion. It is easy to forget the process, the entire creative process, that went into making such a masterpiece.
An artist does not just sit down and create a work of art in one sitting. It can take years. Each masterpiece goes through a series of revisions. There are do-overs and erasures. There are changes of mind and changes of heart. And, I am guessing by now that you know where I am going with this post. I propose that we begin looking at ourselves as masterpieces in progress. We may not be works of art yet, but we are definitely in the process of becoming a work of art.
Like a drawing or a painting we will have some do-overs, we will make some revisions, and we will sometimes need to erase a bit, or give this or that piece a little more attention. When I think of myself as a masterpiece in progress, things begin to change for me. I am no longer such a harsh critic. Why should I be? Vermeer did not create the Girl with the Pearl Earring (1665-1667) in one day.
Nor did van Eyck create “The Arnolfini Portrait” (1434) in one day.
Nor did Frida Kahlo paint one of her many self portraits (this one is called “The Frame”, c. 1937-38) in one day.
I am sure you get the picture (literally and figuratively :)). If you can begin thinking of yourself as a work of art in progress, I think you might look at yourself/your canvas differently. Perfection comes towards the end, when all is finished, and all the painting is done. You’re not there yet. Right now you are in the midst of creating. Think about all the different shapes and colors you have tried on or those you might try in the future. What about the different brushes you have tried, and will try, each brush stroke leaving a slightly different impression on your canvas. As a work of art in progress, I propose that we take off our critic’s hat and, instead, revel in the process, one loving step at a time.