View Full Version : Are you a perfectionist?

Laura Zaruba
09-09-2004, 9:48 AM
I'm just wondering if any of you have had any formal training and how long you spend "perfecting" your designs.

I'm asking because for all educational purposes I'm a business and computer student and I've always had a need to cater to my creative side, which is why I got into laser engraving. I figure it's the best of both worlds in my case even though I've had very little art training. (A couple graphic design classes but mostly trial and error.)

However, I have this friend who is an artist and although I'm sure he means well, he critiques my designs and is never pleased. While I agree quality is important and good designs will sell better, I'm in business to make a living which means I don't have the luxury of unlimited time and money for each design to be what he considers to be a masterpiece. So far my items have been well received, though I'll admit it's among "untrained eyes."

I argued that I need to keep time and materials low to keep my products affordable because my target market is looking for a unique and personalized product, not fine art. He argues they want and should have both.

My feeling is that I just got started and it will take a long time for me to become great in this industry; however, I've gotta start somewhere and as long as I continue learning and improving I should be on the right track.

I've posted some of my pictures on other threads. I'd like to specialize in laser etched photos and other personalized gifts. I already know this isn't the most profitable use for my laser if I'm only selling 1-2 items here and there, but I wanted to give it a shot while I learn about other applications and uses. Plus, I intend to partner with local businesses for more volume work.

I got into this business thinking at the very worst I end up with an expensive hobby but first and foremost I'm in this business to make a living. I figure if my customers are happy then so am I, perfection or not.

What are your thoughts? How long do you spend before you put a design on the market? Do you worry your designs aren't good enough? Am I taking his free advice too personally?

I'd appreciate your comments. Thanks for letting me vent!

Gary Shoemake
09-09-2004, 12:10 PM
Hi Laura

I know what you mean. My wife is an artist who has been published in some local publications, and it seems like there is always something that can be improved upon. It's like the idea that if i can do it anyone can. I have learned that you can always improve, but most folks are tickled by the uniqueness of laser engraving and that they are very happy with their item. I looked at your work and it looks very professional and has a very good quality. Sometimes you have to please yourself and by doing so you please your customer.

I'm working on a couple of things and will post them later.


Bill Grumbine
09-09-2004, 12:38 PM
Hi Laura

There are a number of different levels here.

There is art for art's sake, and the artist who can put endless hours into it to make sure it is as perfect as it can be. Even then, it is not perfect, as we are not perfect. But that piece will probably never command a price that is consistent with the time spent on it, at least while said artist is still alive.

Then there is the commercial aspect. A person who is going to sell their work needs to arrive at a level where it is "good enough". Good enough is defined as that point where you are satisfied that you are getting what you need for that particular piece, and the customer is also satisfied with your product and what they paid for it. If you are selling sloppy work for higher prices, you will eventually take yourself out of the market, but if you are happy and your customers are happy, then your work is good enough. The realization that you can never make it perfect is an important one to reach and be comfortable with.

Amateurs can often turn out better work than professionals because they have no real limits beyond those self imposed ones, and often do not have to account for their time. Now, better does not mean more, it means that qualitatively, an amateur can spend 100 hours on a piece that a pro would need to get out the door in 20, and often that extra 80 hours has no real impact on the piece beyond some very fine details. Professional does not necessarily mean better, it just means that a person is charging for their work so as to support themselves. I knew a guy once who got a commission to build a coat rack for a private club. He hand rubbed somewhere around 8 coats of finish onto the thing, where three would have done. Then he grumbled that they did not pay him enough to make it worthwhile. He knew how much he was going to be paid before he started, but he put all that time in anyway. Guess what? He was a starving artist! Really. He did some art that was kind of weird, but he was also a perfectionist to the point where he had health problems because of it.

There are other reasons why many artists starve. Either they have not learned the lessons above, their art stinks, or they are so perfectionistic that they paralyze themselves into never completing anything. Then again, your friend may just be overly picky.

I hope this helps you out some.

Bill (a reluctant artist who no one will ever accuse of starving)

Gary Shoemake
09-09-2004, 1:15 PM
Hi Bill

You put into words what I was trying to get across. By good enough I meant a commercial quality that is sometimes not up to the eye or the critque of a master artist.


Carl Eyman
09-09-2004, 2:16 PM
I've often thought I'd like to pick up a buck making stuff for craft fairs, gift shops, etc. The wood work that seems to sell there is all made of #2 pine, with probably a "blow torch" finish and a heart shaped cut-out in the lid for a handle. I just can't bring myself to make that stuff. But that is the stuff that sells, or so the people in the booths I visit say. So if I want to make money I'd better swallow my pride - but I'm not that broke, yet. By the way if any of you do that kind of thing, don't take offense. I am not criticizing you - just the taste of your customers.

Mark Singer
09-09-2004, 11:28 PM
Bill has really many answers that are correct. Art is not really something that is or should be perfect. If we "stay between the lines" it is paint by number. Often art and design is too predictable...I love kids art, they are free and with no pretence their nature and spirit is manifested. How they see the world. How often is that "Big Movie" so bad and some little cheap foreign film that takes place in one room the one that gets under your skin and makes you feel alive...art is and should be different things to each of us...viva la difference...celebrate it and do something from you for you and don't worry about the worlds critics....when someone smarter than him says he likes it...he will start liking it too and fast!