Painting and Perfection

by The Crowded Camel

In order to incorporate more art into his life, the Crowded Camel recently decided to take up painting as a hobby. He is seen above attempting to paint during an art class, which he takes on weekends. However, this relaxing and creatively invigorating experience is short lived as the Camel struggles to complete his painting. He panics and nervously sweats as his instructor looks on, criticizing him on his unconventional technique. Because of this, the Camel feels discouraged from pursuing painting further, as he feels incompetent and unable to paint the way others in the class do.

The Camel here might gain perspective on his situation by referencing a passage from the Platonic dialogue Laws, written in 360 B.C., on the topic of ethics and government. In a conversation with a man named Cleinias, an Athenian stranger uses a painter as a metaphor for a legislator crafting legislation:

Suppose that some one had a mind to paint a figure in the most beautiful manner, in the hope that his work instead of losing would always improve as time went on-do you not see that being a mortal, unless he leaves some one to succeed him who will correct the flaws which time may introduce, and be able to add what is left imperfect through the defect of the artist, and who will further brighten up and improve the picture, all his great labour will last but a short time?1

Like the painter in this passage, the Camel should acknowledge that his painting will decay and deteriorate over time, bringing about imperfections over which he has no control. But instead of resorting to apathy and despair, this realization should clarify to the Camel what is truly important in his artistic endeavors. Specifically, the Camel, like all of us, should remind himself not to get caught up in the minute details of his artistic pursuits. The most important thing is to carry out one’s creative vision and enjoy oneself in the process, unencumbered by one’s tools, the expectations of others or the possibility of making a mistake.

Sources:

  1. “The Internet Classics Archive | Laws by Plato.” The Internet Classics Archive | Laws by Plato. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/laws.6.vi.html&gt;.
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