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Finding That Artistic Sweet Spot between Order and Chaos

My life has been a lot about order and structure. Things that make sense. That are easily broken into smaller parts that make the larger part work. Organization, the name of the game. At the detriment of exploring art.


I couldn’t tell you if it was because of the chaos I felt inside, or the lack of security I felt in myself. But I imposed structure and order upon myself in great measures. Even as an early adult I would have massive internal trouble if something didn’t go the way I expected, wanted, or needed it to. Everything could become “no” suddenly and without warning.


The true beauty of a chaotic and messy existence was left unseen because everything about it triggered stress. Crippling, fear-ridden stress.


And there is such wonder in the chaos and mess of really living life.


And in art, there is a wonderfully sweet spot for artistry, creativity and joy in between order and chaos.


But you must move towards the chaos first…


An old lesson and a good lesson is that we cannot get better without first trying and making mistakes. But somehow the concept of mistakes have become very negative. We beat ourselves up for the mistakes rather than taking a lesson, getting back up, and trying again.


Or, in art, as Bob Ross says, “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” Which I have always tried to take in the spirit of using the “mistake” as an opportunity to pivot and take a different path to a finished piece than I’d intended.


I get it, it’s not easy. The struggle is so very real.


But I think I’ve figured out my formula, in looking both at successful projects and abandoned ones.


Recently I participated in a “draw this in your style,” dtiys, challenge on Instagram. It was super fun until I realized after finishing that I might have made a faux pas in not understanding that there might have been more unspoken rules for a dtiys challenge. I panicked and stressed…for nothing, honestly. I mean really, I did the project as I wanted, if the artist had been upset by it all I could have done was apologize. Everything was ok, though!


Around the same time I had a conversation with the hubs about art projects for his books. There has been a lack of motivation on my part for certain projects and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. A lot of my other personal projects I’ve loved and finished in a day or days. Others have been abandoned and every time I think about them I stress. I’d love to finish them but the magic isn’t there.


And that got me thinking, what is the best formula or recipe for success when it comes to art projects?

The projects I’ve loved and couldn’t wait to work on had something special. They had structure and order but they also had chaos and mess. They were only partially defined. The art brief needed to be specific enough to get me a solid direction but not so defined that I’m locked into one small path.


For the dtiys piece, there was the general layout and composition in the original piece by Queer Snail and the room to “go nuts” as it were with the execution of the piece. The key details were obviously the flowers and ghosts. The flowers looked like tulips so I looked up a bunch of pictures to amalgamate some key features and off I went. The ghosts were easier, just did some sketches and followed my heart.



This project and the more visible structured chaos gave me new eyes with which to see my less successful attempts at some of the hubs’ book related projects. Visuals have always been a necessary part of my art ideation, and that was something I was able to have the hubs provide in the 3D art he makes. The struggle is that I felt like I had to produce something that matched the provided visuals as exactly as I could manage. Not fun for me, I’ve discovered. There is too much stress that pushes me towards perfectionism. Which apparently equals abandoning the project.


So here’s the artwork success equation: source art or inspiration image + enough key details for finding varied images with which to create an original amalgamation = happy artist and finished project.


I really, truly want to be able to bring characters from the hubs’ books to life in my art. I’m hoping that this formula is moving in the right direction.


I’ve definitely struggled to move towards chaos but the more I do the happier I’ve found myself and the more art I’ve created, much by embracing happy accidents along the way. Accepting that there is room for a little, or even a lot of, chaos in my life. Especially in my art.


Now it is your turn, what is the best way to find joy in your creative projects? Let me know in the comments!

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