Creative Mondays #037 – If it’s not perfect, it’s not done.


Back in the early weeks of this blog I wrote about going to see Joel Hodgson’s show Riffing Myself gave me a lot of ideas for posts in this blog.  Looking back over my notes I found one more that I think deserves mention here.

Joel spoke on how one of the things that really captivated him growing up were the album covers of Roger Dean.  Roger Dean is an artist who designed album covers for a lot of different bands when Joel was growing up, and still does to this day.  He is probably most widely known for his ‘far out’ designs for the band Yes.  He also came up with the, sort of interweaving, logo the band has used for decades.  When Joel was younger, Roger Dean collected a lot of his designs in a book called Views and it became a big inspiration to him.  He mentioned that not only were Dean’s designs in the book, there were also pictures of the design in process.  Starting with rough pencil sketches to the finished project.  Joel said this really clued him in to the idea that really great art isn’t just made instantly.  There’s a lot of trial and error to getting something right.

Looking at Dean’s work gave him the idea of, “If it’s not perfect, it’s not done.”  Dean would labor over something until it is exactly the way he wanted it and this process is all laid out in Views.  Joel adopted that in his work in creating.  He realized in order for something to be done, it had to be perfect.

I agree with this.  I whole heartedly agree that is there is more work to be done on a creative project, it should get done.  But there’s also a very dangerous side to this philosophy.  It’s one we will delve into again in the coming weeks but, if you’re constantly striving for perfection, you’ll never release your art.  You’ll get mired down in getting the current piece so perfect, you’ll never release it.

I don’t think what Joel is talking about when he says if it’s not perfect, it’s not done is that you constantly work on something until it can’t be perfected anymore.  I believe he’s saying until your piece of art is the way YOU want it and YOU are happy with it, it isn’t done.  Now, I don’t know Roger Dean personally but I think if you asked him, and he was like most artists, he would tell you that there are little pieces of the Yes logo that he wishes were different.  And maybe he even changed those things in later revisions.  But he worked on the design until he felt it was perfect to show the band and then release.

If you are working on a piece of art and there’s something bugging you about it, change it.  You need to be happy with what you release.  Don’t release art that doesn’t please you.  But don’t spend the rest of your life chasing that perfection.  There’s got to be a point when the project is done and you move on to the next one.

I’ve heard it said that writers write books for just one person.  I think that can be applied to all fields of art, not just writing.  A painter paints to impress one person.  A dancer creates a dance to please one person.  And I think that person, should be, you, THE ARTIST.  If you aren’t happy with what you’re making, do not release it.

If it isn’t perfect (meaning makes you happy), it’s not done.

Do you wait until you are happy with a piece of art before you release it?  Or do you fall into the trap of always wanting to tweak it and never let it go?  Let me know in the comments below.  Have a great week!

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2 thoughts on “Creative Mondays #037 – If it’s not perfect, it’s not done.”

  1. Taking painting classes in college we were always warned about the danger of “over-working” a painting. For each artist that could mean something different depending on their style. Doing, loose, painterly style paintings (Impressionism for instance)ran the risk of getting more realistic the more you tweaked a part of the painting and you lost the feel of that style. Perhaps you started putting in colors that threw the whole scheme off. Getting away from it and returning before making those changes helped. So “perfect” can look “undone” and there is beauty in that. I am making myself learn that a painting can take several tries before it’s “perfect.”

    BTW; I think Roger Dean covers are gorgeous!

    1. Julie – Thanks so much for replying. Great to get a painting perspective on this as I have no study in that area. “Perfect can look undone.” I really like that!

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