When Do You Stop Fixing Things?

An early work of mine.
A copy of the Manesse Codex.
done with Cotman watercolors and
Testors gold on watercolor paper.

You may not know this, but when I started painting illuminations I tried to make every picture perfect. I spent hours applying paint over paint layer working for the best. Looking back those were dreadful compared to my recent scrolls.

I had things to learn. The first being when to stop fixing things.

Eventually, I realized you don’t have to feel bad when you flub. It’s okay if you stray over the line, use a wrong color or smudge some ink. Historic manuscripts have errors too.

Skill improvement takes time. You don’t make quantum leaps. Just do your best at your own skill level and keep moving forward.

I learned from modeling early manuscripts. Styles I adored but felt comfortable doing. I searched for those with simpler designs, less shading, and no perspective.

But I was afraid to take an assignment with a deadline. Doing a court scroll has more to consider that your skill. There’s time.

I fretted over how long it took to perfect my work. And worried if my extra efforts offset the quality I’d have when I was done.

There are ways to gain experience without a looming deadline. You could paint pictures for largess, gifts, demos or competition prizes. Paint other people’s designs. Or make bookmarks to thank your friends. When you’re ready, connect with your Signet and do a scroll without a deadline. A backlog scroll. 

Grimani Breviary: Month of March

But keep looking at illuminations that excite you. That stir your senses.

Look at the detail, the shading, the paint layers. Admire the skill.

Your destination might be something like the 15th-century Grimani Breviary. What’s not to love there?

For now, you don’t have to work to that level. With practice and determination, you might recreate it in your future.

In the meantime – as Shakespeare wrote – “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.”

Related Prior Post:
The Beginning And The Evolving Scribe  
Tip To Seeing Like An Artist

Categories: Projects

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