Simulation: 3 Ways to Take the Edge off Perfectionism
by Michael Damico
Regardless of the kind of creative processes you’re into, nearly all of us struggle with the desire to nail it on the first try. You know what I mean. Perfectionism, in our case, is the hope of capturing the perfect shot in one take, landing a book deal based on an unedited draft, spreading brilliance on a canvas without a single cover-up.
But this desire for perfection right out of the gate can actually make it harder to achieve. Why? Because we end up putting pressure on ourselves and that blocks our creativity. So, whether you’re a creative professional or simply dabble as a hobbyist, I’ve got some good advice: remember the power of simulation.
1. Imitation of a situation or process.
There are several kinds of simulation, but I’m just going to cover three that are particularly helpful for artists. They all serve the same purpose: to take the edge off the pressure to make it perfect on your first try.
The first type of simulation is mental. That is, spending time visualizing what you want your work to look like. Now, this type is a little harder to work with. Mostly because you don’t get any feedback from your body. It’s just this abstract thought in your mind. Nevertheless, it’s still a really helpful exercise. A little visualization before you start a piece can go a long way.
This type is exactly what it sounds like: sketching out your project before you get started. For painters and illustrators, this is relatively straightforward. It may look a little different for a photographer. And it doesn’t even always require a pencil. You can sketch with whatever medium you normally use or whatever is convenient. The point is that using sketches to simulate your work helps you tackle challenges away from your finished piece.
This last simulation style is something I use pretty regularly as a painter. When I know my piece has some challenging parts, I’ll paint the details separately from the actual piece. This actually serves two purposes. First, it’s a low-pressure way to work through high-pressure problems. Sometimes I’ll have as many as ten different side detail pieces. I even use scrap materials for the simulation. They are always pretty small, usually about eight inches or so.
Second, painting detailed simulations helps keep me excited for the final work in between drying times. In fact, sometimes I’ll have as many detail pieces as it takes for a layer of my oils to dry. It keeps me simulating and occupied on the same subject, so it’s a win-win.
It’s Worth the Extra Work!
The whole point of using simulations ahead of time is to relieve the pressure of perfectionism. It’s to take the edge off nailing it right out of the gate. But it also has an added benefit of putting you into the mode of “practice makes perfect.” Plus, when you don’t have that pressure, you can really enjoy the time you spend on the finished piece. And believe it or not, using simulations frees you to let the final piece flow.
In other words, it’s a way to maximize creativity.
Yeah, it’s extra work. But it sure beats seriously messing up a piece and starting the project all over again.
Do you have your own method of simulation? Tell us about it in the comments!