Trust the Process

One of the more frustrating things as a teacher is when folks don't trust the process. Instead of opening themselves up to new possibilities that unveil themselves through trial and error, they focus on the end results: pretty, perfect and right now. As a teacher, you gently offer suggestions encouraging them to step back and try x, y or z. They might try a bit of y and you can tell by the look on their face that they are frustrated, wondering why they are here and not at all in a mood to ask, "What if?" on their pages. You try to encourage them some more but they don't seem interested in anything that you are saying. You turn your back to help someone else and find that when you turn around, they've completely covered up their work with something else.

How can we grow better as artists (and individuals) if we don't keep our hearts, minds and hands open to new ideas and possibilities? Why do we push aside our sense of play and experimentation? Why are we only focused on the finished product? Why isn't the journey our destination? Why can't we accept that sometimes failure is part of the solution?

I spent several hours over a period of two days recently on a journal page (see the above page.) I struggled with it. I added more layers. I cut things out, moved them around the page and pushed them aside. I used my pens and markers only to wipe them off with baby wipes and rags. I walked away from the piece when I had to. I went back to it even when it wasn't calling my name. I pushed. I pulled. I gave into the process. I sure as hell wasn't about to tear the page out (I don't work that way.) It ended up evolving into something completely different than what I started out with and what I had intended to make. I ended up covering up bits that I loved but you know what, I'm okay with that. It's part of the process.

When I sit down to make a page, I am making that page for myself. I am not interested in pretty or perfect (though some may comment on how pretty my pages appear to be), I am interested in self expression, exploration, documentation and discovering my truth. I am focused on expressing how I feel at that moment in time when I create that one specific page. If I feel that I have said everything I need or want to say on a page (through the use of layered images, color, composition, text, etc...), then I consider it a successful page.

I do not love every page that I make. I make pages that I am content with. I make pages that I have struggled with. I make pages that I hate. It's all part of my journey and I embrace them all. Just like life with good and bad moments. I learn from my experiences. I take what I need and use those lessons to become better at who I am and what I do each and every day.

I'm not judging the people that give up and cover everything over completely. I'm just trying to encourage them to step back, push aside judgments and try asking, "what if?" and go from there. It's only paper and it's full of possibility.


Brian Kasstle said…
Brilliant Kelly. So many folks just give up, rip it up, cover it all up. It IS part of the process. We all didn't start out making beautiful pages. We had to make some butt ugly pages along the way, and we still do I might add. It is all part of the process of being an artist. Keep creating and inspiring Kelly.
HappyDayArt! said…
How wonderful to get a link to this post in my email today! I struggle with some of the things you've told me to do because I think if I do them, I will do it badly and wreck my page. However, I do try to push through sometimes and what I love is the serendipity of finding and placing the images we cut out and then that page means something to ME. I like the way you wrote this. I will read it again.

Thanks Kelly.
Unknown said…
Why isn't the journey our destination? This is the most profound question I've had to ask myself lately. I hear people say and write "enjoy the the process", but in my own mind I never thought it made much sense. To me...the enjoyment comes only in the end when you physically see the fruits of your labor.

I am beginning to realize that the above approach and mind-set, is the very thing that has caused so much heartache, disappointment and doubt in many areas of my life. I think this could be true for most of us who have grown up in American culture. We are taught to place value on the PERFECT end result. Never on how you got there. Nobody wants to hear that part. Yet that's where the "perfecting" takes place. I think it's sad. I believe that I couldn't have ever learned this lesson any other way except through the process of art. Today, I'm learning to embrace the process even if its through tears.
Happy journey
I agree with you Kelly! I wonder if this is something that happens more with people who are new to art journaling and are already having doubts about their artistic abilities? I've found that people who have been creating for a while are more inclined to follow the "What if" than new beginners. But I'm sure there are others who have experienced just the opposite. I generally go with what I'm feeling and trying to convey than pretty. :)
tracey said…
Kelly, don't get frustrated with us...we just haven't had as much practice as you have had. And I'm sure that for ever frustrating student you have, you have at _least_ one other who takes your advice to heart. I know I do! <3
tgarrett said…
Kelly as a life long art educator i so understand- I find that when I revert back to not trusting the process I become miserable!
Kelly Kilmer said…
@Brian Agreed! I make some pages that I don't always love for what they look like but I do appreciate the heart that went into them. They are just as valuable to me as the pages that I love.

@Catherine I love watching you work and process your creativity. I love that a-ha light bulb that goes off over your head. I know how much you relish the creative journey.

@Polly So very well said. I know what you mean. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today (thought process wise.) We are taught from a very young age that it's the end result that is most important. We are made to constantly think and worry about tomorrow and the future. We push aside the journey and worry about the destination. All we have is the journey. Art has also helped me to learn this valuable lesson as well. You are not alone. HUGS.

@Indigene It's not just newbies that I see struggle with this. It's folks who have been creating a long time. We all struggle. We need to realize that and reach out to each other and realize we're not alone. :)

@Tracey I get more frustrated with myself than I EVER do with my students. I have a lot more patience with my students than I do with myself at times but I am learning to try to be more gentle with myself and how I think and approach the world. I know that my students are in the same boat. I just hope that this discussion gets folks thinking about things in a new way.

@Terry Same here! :) It's nice to know that I am not alone.
Quinn said…
Really good article. I just quit teaching art--taking a hiatus. The companies that make supplies have too many people trained that it must always be perfect, always work the first time (or try a new art supply), always be done in class and be ready to give as a gift. I don't learn anything unless I fail at it several times. But I met too many class participants who dissolved in tears, tore out pages, and became defeated because is wasn't perfect right away, that I began to think I wasn't doing a good job. I admire you for continuing to teach.
Kelly, thanks for the reminder. As others have said, we are trained from early childhood that "results" are what is important. I've only recently begun to love my "imperfect journal" because it has pages that I love and pages that I don't and both teach me something. Your last sentence stood out for me - It's only paper and it's full of possibility. I'm posting that in my journal! Thanks for this post.

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