Friday, January 15, 2010

Mouse Patrol

I got a phone call at work today, with a frantic voice on the other end begging, “You’ve got to come home right now! I’ve got a mouse trapped under a bowl!”

As soon as I was able to control my hysterical laughter and dry my eyes, I inquired if the caller was serious. My wife (who, incidentally, is nicknamed Mouse) said she was “serious as all get-out” about the trapped mouse, but only half serious about needing me to come home immediately. When I suggested that she slide a piece of cardboard under the bowl and take the whole mess outside, she suggested that I might be crazy.

When I got home, I was firmly guided directly to the storage room in the basement, where I found a round, yellow Tupperware container, upside down on the floor, and a metal Christmas reindeer standing on top of it. One thing’s for sure, that mouse was not going to get away with that reindeer standing guard!

I assured her that it would not be a problem. I went upstairs to get a thin sheet of steel that I intended to slide under the bowl, effectively sealing the mouse inside. When I returned, my wife had emptied the floor of every box, basket, chair and bag, to give me all of the elbow room I could possibly want while I gained control of the little rodent. Joe Mauer could have made one of his famous swings, and not touched anything in that room!

I carefully slid the steel under the bowl, held the metal and container tight so the mouse couldn’t escape, and quickly placed him and his Tupperware prison in a grocery bag to take outside.

“What are you going to do with him?" my wife called out. "Don’t let him loose too close to the house,” she added. "He’ll come right back in.”

I said I would dispose of him.

“Don’t kill him.”

Now, I’m not squeamish about getting rid of a mouse, but when I opened the bag and found him looking up at me with those round black eyes, and one tiny pink foot stuck in a mousetrap, I just couldn’t do it.

Still, if I were to let him go in the yard, he would most assuredly find his way back into the basement, meet another mouse, have babies, meet more mice, have more babies... .

Sorry, Mickey. A night outside in the bottom of the garbage can, in your cozy grocery bag, is all I can offer you. You'll have to work out your next move with the trash collector.

Sleep tight!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Room for Perfectionists

I’m not sure how often I am absolutely, positively, 100% satisfied with a painting when I finish it. Generally, artists are quite hard on themselves. Our self-esteem is often under attack while we attempt to create a memorable work of art. We struggle to build a perfect composition. We strive for a message that is powerful and meaningful. We painstakingly endeavor to maintain a quality standard. Frankly, we need to back off a little!

An unknown author once said, “Perfectionism can create excellent results, but the cost of getting there can cause stress. So instead of striving for perfection, I am for excellence in all I do.” I believe that is the key. To strive for excellence in my art, I can let go of the self-imposed charge to create the perfect piece, while allowing myself to explore and pursue new directions in technique and subject matter. Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.”

The path of a painter is no place for a perfectionist. Only God is perfect. If we attempt perfection, we will never be happy and never reach our goals. Indeed, some of the most appealing and beautiful features in a work of art can be the result of an accident while painting, or a wild brush stroke that speaks boldly, or simply knowing when to stop and call it done. This is not to say that we should stop working hard to create good art. We can’t allow our work to own us and cause us so much pain. And overworking a piece will ultimately ruin it. I know! I often don’t know when to quit.

I really like the quote from photographers David Bayles and Ted Orland, “The seed of your next artwork lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece.”

I can’t say that I have now solved all of my problems with regard to the excellence of my art, and I still don’t always know when to stop working on a piece, but I try not to beat myself up like I used to. And, I have learned to throw out a poorly conceived or rendered painting, rather than trying to salvage it when it is terminal.

relieves stress!