How to Embrace the Mistake!

Exuberant Imperfection!


No Plot No Problem By Chris Batty

No Plot No Problem
By Chris Batty

I just finished reading a book called “No Plot? No Problem” by Chris Baty. Chris Baty started a project called the “National Novel Writing Month” or NaMoWriMo.  Participating the the novel writing month project is on my bucket list and that’s why I ordered this book from my library.

Whether I join this insane project this year or not; my take away from reading this book was to embrace “exuberant imperfection”. 

Chris explains the first rule of exuberant imperfection.

“The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy.”

Adults avoid risks because we are attached to competence. An adult likes to get it right, to do a good job and to be professional. That’s why many adults like me went to college and got a good jobs.  The baby boomers didn’t make something of ourselves by being crappy!

Now that I am out of the workforce I have the freedom to complete a project which turns out to be a complete disappointment. The trick as an artist is not to just say I am going let myself work out of comfort zone or experiment; but actually complete a project that is bad!

The visual artist has many techniques for avoiding completing a bad project. You can keep all your ugly drawings in a sketchbook. Paintings can be started and abandoned or painted over. However the worse sin for me is to make something really good and keep making it over and over again.

image from

image from

RC Gorman who had a very successful career (and I assume happy life) painted his personal icon of the native american women over and over again.  He would be my example of an addiction to competence.

Early Cutout  1953

Early Cutout

Henry Matisse was an artist addicted to exploring new possibilities. When Matisse was unable to paint, he started his cutouts. The first cuts were a far cry from his famous paintings, but he made them anyway and put them out on display.

Eventually he found a new artistic direction.

Exhibition view, Henri Matisse. Drawing with Scissors, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2002

Exhibition view, Henri Matisse. Drawing with Scissors, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2002


In the past my collage style art quilts like “Synchronized in the Sea of Love” have had some success in the art quilt world.  This quilt has made it into several shows including the recent Q=A=Q. I have worked in this collage style for several years inspired by surrealism, assemblage and outsider art. Synchronized-in-the-Sea-of-Love

Recently I have challenged myself to change directions creating work that is figurative and accessible to larger less sophisticated audience. This is a complete departure from my established style.

I started by impulsively downloading a commercial book and video that taught how to draw figures in a “whimsical” style. The book was for those without any artistic training. I didn’t edit myself and in the style of Chris Batty plunged ahead completing something pretty crappy in record time. I call it “Bird Woman”.

21(L) x 10(W)

21(L) x 10(W)

By following the direction to make the figures with exaggerated proportion my figure was too slim, the head too large and it just didn’t work.  I tried to adjust by cutting down the skirt, added other elements, painted, stitched and still ended up with a hobby art look. Crappy!

ps. The photo is equally bad, but will will help with a future post on setting up a photo studio……

My next jump into the unknown was to enter a show at my local art guild. The show paired poems with artists. My was a 20 word poem about dragonflies called “Damsels of the Morn”. This time I focused on the romantic tone of the poem and the last line of the poem “dancers at play”.

24(L) x 18(W)

24(L) x 18(W)

In record time I created a small piece in a style I have never embraced.  The freemotion quilting and heavy stitching was a new to my work. This is the first time I did not use photo transfers of fussy cutting.

Without the aid of books, I did draw from pictures of dancers and used my copier to make reduce the size of the second dancer. The fabric is painted in a watercolor style.  Like a traditional painting, the quilt is mounted to canvas and varnished. Damsels may not be as crappy as Bird Woman, but it is not where I see myself going artistically.

I will continue to embrace Exuberant Imperfection! Join me…….