Last month I was at the Frieda & Diego exhibit at the AGO. I was standing in front of Diego's 'Man with a Hat' (similar: here) and I was struck by how simple the lines were. The basic strokes and shape gave life and movement to a man. It wasn't perfect, afterall, it was just a study. It was forgivable that it wasn't perfect. You were watching someone work out a process. It inspired me to make a little promise to myself that I would draw more often.
When we got home I decided to dig under my bed for my supplies from university. I had quit art late into my university career (much to the critical detriment of a second major). Part of the reason was my course load at the time, but for the most part I was happy to be rid of it. I was tired of the mechanical failure between my eyes and my hands. I was tired of having to stand next to my work in class and receive criticism that I only interpreted as negative. I know it's terrible. I know you know it's terrible. We don't have to talk about it, let alone making me stand in front of the other students. I decide that I was never going to get it and that was frustrating.
I had avoided my portfolio for years; it gathered dust and became buried under anything/everything. It was worthless, but the sheer amount of time it represented kept me from throwing it away. Five years later I still avoided looking at it. Enclosed in this portfolio was the proof of my failing and basic inadequacies compared to my peers. I was fundamentally flawed on a basic biological level where critical synapses between by eyes and hands just did not exist ...and under my bed was the proof.
As I unpacked the drawings, one after another, I realized something. They weren't entirely terrible . They were forgivable for not being perfect It was a basic drawing course - of course they weren't amazing, but they certainly did not reflect this self perceived handicap that needed to be buried .
In the five years since these drawings, I haven't really picked up a pencil. The skills that I did have at the time have rusted into ruin. It will take time to build back what I squandered. This lead me to a couple questions: what abilities are you currently not using because you don't think you are good enough? What are you holding yourself back on? What can you do today that you aren't working to improve or maintain? Being imperfect is forgivable....but maybe giving up for the wrong reasons isn't.