Close Enough isn’t and Good Enough won’t be
I should have two trashcans in my darkroom – one labeled “good enough” and the other “close enough”. When I catch myself thinking a print is “good enough” or “close enough” then the print needs to go into the designated can. This is my own short hand to myself that the print is not up to my standards. It reminds me to question if I’m rushing to get the job done by cutting corners, just to be finished with the print.
Each of the past 10 years Donna and I have aimed to hang completely new work in our home gallery. We have 65 spaces for images ranging in size from 5×7 to 16×20 and sizes between. It takes several months to go from choosing which the images for work prints, selecting from these those for the exhibit and then making the final prints. Throughout the process we continue to tweak the images, print choices and location in the gallery during our (euphemistically called) “blue tape period”.
We’re now at the point where we will title, date and sign prints before they leave for matting. When they return we will take down the old work, frame by frame, clean and install the new image and hang it in place. This requires a full week of careful attention, but the hard decisions have been made so it is not difficult. The best part is twofold: showing the work to people and getting to live surrounded by it for the year.
The work this year is primarily from my trips to China and Japan. Our open gallery/studio day this year is June 17th and you are all invited. I will be giving platinum printing demonstrations throughout the day so come on by anytime between 9 and 5.
About halfway through the editing, scanning and proof printing there was an update to Adobe Photoshop CC which changed the curves for my digital negatives. As often happens, this caused me to stop and reevaluate my digital negative procedure. It took me about ten days to sort everything out but now the prints are looking right to me again. Many prints are still being torn up and thrown away but not because the curves aren’t working.
When I looked at those earlier prints and said “not good or close enough” I knew something wasn’t right. Probably no one but myself would have noticed the difference without looking at two prints side-by-side, but I did and had to do something about it. This is why I’ve always said one of my most important darkroom tools is an industrial sized trash can!
Why do I think this is an important story to share? It is simple. What each of us is doing is our art. Most of us aren’t going to get rich making art (though some artists do and other people win the lottery… are the odds similar)? The rest of us make art, photographs, paintings, or pottery because it brings us pleasure and because we have to. Something inside us would die if we couldn’t express ourselves through our art. We do it because it allows us to tell the world how we see things, what we define as beautiful and about what we are passionate.
There is a difference between, “this is the best I can do today” and “this is good enough or close enough”. As artists we are constantly learning, reinventing, and remaking our craft. As we improve our craft, our vision expands and we see new potential and possibilities for our materials and expression. The more art we make the more our craft improves and our vision deepens. It is an upward growth spiral.
Accepting “close enough” or “good enough” is a slow death spiral. The “best I can do today” inspires growth. Today’s “best” often goes in tomorrow’s trashcan. Stopping at “good enough” can leave you discouraged and disappointed because you know deep down inside it’s not your best. By refusing to accept “good enough” or “close enough” you will push yourself to better work and that is all that matters.
Our mothers’ had it right, “Do the best you can”. It sets a high standard but it will keep our hearts and spirit alive.
All the best,