Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Gettin’ It Right!

Lew's Art TableI love problem solving in my art-making. I love tweaking, and trimming, and refining my process. I love watching the work improve with each new little innovation I learn and apply to the work.

This process of improvement is not a quest for perfection, but of excellence. I’m going to try to stay away from any discussion of the perils and pitfalls of so-called perfection. I’ll just say that the pursuit of perfection is nothing more than a futile dead end.


A very long time ago, I chose to pursue excellence with all of its twists, turns, and variations. And what that means in my handmade work that there are variations (not “imperfections”) in the work. These variations stand as a testimony to the maker’s hand in the making. I love the fact that, try as I might, the joins and seams of my collage quilt-block pieces are somewhat uneven. I enjoy that elements don’t match-up precisely, try as I might to make them do so. When I’ve finished, I see the variety of “marks” in the work because I made it all by hand. I love that. Marks of the maker is the inspiration behind the name of my ESTY store – Fingerprints. It’s also a faith thing with me; that God’s hand is everywhere in His creation.


Lately I’ve been building my 4-Panel Collage Quilt-blocks – I call them Quads for short. I got to thinking about what it takes to make just one of them and realized that there’s a boatload of hand-work involved.

I begin by painting the papers; 18 x 30-inch sheets, onto which I paint visual textures using donated (upcycled) latex house paints. I must have some 80 or 90 cans in various sizes, and with various colors. I love latex because it covers like acrylic, but it mixes and washes like watercolors. It’s incredibly versatile, and I’m keeping it all out of a landfill somewhere.

Once the paper-stocks are dry, trimmed and pressed for a week, I cut each collage piece according to the quilt-block pattern I’m following. Allowing for some edge overlap, I develop an assembly process for each design so that I achieve a well made block.

These blocks are glued-up onto either Masonite panels for single block artworks, or onto upcycled file folder card. The “singles” as I call them, are given a finish, framed, and sold. The rest of the work goes into the larger quad-pieces through a series of combining, cutting, and working with all of those “patches”, just the same as a quilt-maker does when doing a quilt top.

There’s a lot of thinking time when I’m working on these pieces. There’s a lot of mental energy spent thinking and re-thinking through the step I’ve just completed, the step I’m into, and the step I’m working toward.


In those mental moments I’m always having to tell my judgmental left-brain to just shut-up and go sulk in the corner. This is right-brain time and I don’t need the criticism and fear. It’s amazing to me that it takes this kind of mental discipline to quiet the judge/critic, even as my hand is approaching the work with another glue-backed piece.

“You’ve got to get it ‘right’!”, I hear, and I just block him/it. I think, “I am getting it right – not ‘perfect’ but excellent, and right.” I remind that little left-brain punk that it’s not an artist. Right-brain is the artist. It’s kind of like having a bold bullying kid going up against a gentler, quieter kid and having to defend the gentler one. I don’t isolate my right-brain, because the conflict teaches me to make choices about which one to “listen to”.

It’s what Betty Edwards teaches in her masterwork. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Her entire thesis rests on teaching readers/students how to silence the left-brain, activate the right-brain, and know when that has happened.


What’s your inner judgmental conflict like? How do you deal with what’s so often been called the “inner-critic”? What resources do you use to raise your self-confidence, and maintain it amid the risk-taking of creativity?


2 responses

  1. I agree that the hand-made product isn’t “perfect”, but “less than perfect” can be excellent in that it bears the marks of the hand that made it. Sometimes that can be worth so much more than the machine-made production line model, if only for its uniqueness.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    • Lew

      Michael – Absolutely; I also feel an almost spiritual connection with the person who made a handmade object. For me there’s a connection, and it’s only present when an art work or craft item exhibit something of the presence of the person who made it; the irregularities and so-called “imperfections”. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:06 am