Saved By The “CTRL+S”-Twitch

Back when I was still studying game-design, our school’s computers weren’t exactly top of the line. There was no way the budget could afford that. Understandable, but it meant that we were surrounded by the mechanical equivalents of asthmatic 70-year olds. And we demanded them to take part in the Olympics.

Huffing and puffing, our poor computers tried to keep up, but ultimately they would fail us and act out by crashing at the most inopportune times. Right before a deadline, say.
Having hours of your work erased, because you forgot to save is… not fun. To counter this, I developed this twitch. Whenever I hit a few keys on the keyboard, I immediately followed up by hitting CTRL+S . After a while, this twitch became so sophisticated, I would save my ‘progress’ when I had been staring at the screen for a while and wasn’t quite sure if had called upon the power of the magic keys or not. Better safe than sorry! CTRL+S.

Dutch Horror Story

It didn’t occur to me that I developed a potential problem, until a few years later. It was a dark and stormy night – it has to be, otherwise the story lacks drama – and I was sculpting my first doll, when I noticed how my left pinky and middle finger started twitching on regular intervals. Every time I paused, there it was: Twitch-twitch. I was saving my progress.
This time, though, I wasn’t working on a computer. I was working clay. Unlike digital work, you can’t undo your changes or load an earlier save when sculpting. What’s done is done. And this idea terrified me so much it seized up my creativity. Whenever I saw an error, I did try to fix it of course. But my attempts were only half-hearted, afraid as I was to ruin the work I had already done.

There’s this Dutch proverb which directly translated says: Soft healers make stinking wounds. I was only treating the superficial symptoms, yet didn’t dare to work on the root of the problem. Because what if I could never recreate the work I had made before at the same level?

Fear is the worst emotion to listen to when creating. I didn’t want it to hold me back. So, to get rid of that emotion, I knew that I needed to confront it head-on. Which is why I threw the doll away and started over. And it was the most liberating thing I could have done.
It is still my preferred method when dealing with errors in my art. Don’t like where the sculpture is going? Throw it away. Doesn’t matter how long I’ve been working on it already. Especially when there are fundamental flaws in composition, balance, anatomy, etc, the error is part of the armature, or it’s part of the sculpture where everything else is built around. Errors like that can be covered up, sure. But they will drag the quality of the entire piece down. Nobody is going to notice your perfectly rendered rose, when the figure holding it has a lopsided face, and a stiff, or unbalanced pose. Those flaws are going to pull all the attention towards them. To fix major errors in your art, starting over from scratch, instead of covering them up, will often give the best results.

Et Tu, Brute?

I’ve killed many darlings. Butchered them, in fact. My workshop is a graveyard filled with discarded earlier attempts of Snatch, the female in my butterfly-project and armatures of a new sculpture I have just started working on since ‘butterflies’ is nearing its end. Sometimes I almost feel this maniacal glee when I feel I’m on a road that leads to nowhere: “This isn’t working… guess who’s getting chopped to pieces??” *cue “Psycho” movie-style violins as my saw is glinting ominously in my hand*

Not getting too attached to our own work allows us to create the best things we are capable of. And that, I believe, is worth all the effort.

So how about you? What is your preferred method of dealing with those pesky mistakes we all discover in our work?

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