Nicholas Wilton is the artist behind the beautiful illustrations on my earlier book cover and my website. In addition to showing in gallery exhibitions and inclusion in private collections, he is the founder of the Art2Life Method, a system of fundamental painting and intuition principles that help enable the creative process.

I absolutely love what he writes about perfectionism and art.

It completely aligns with the research finding that perfectionism crushes creativity – which is why one of the most effective ways to start recovering from perfectionism is to start creating. Here’s what Nick has to say:

“I always felt that someone, a long time ago, organized the affairs of the world into areas that made sense – categories of stuff that is perfectible, things that fit neatly in perfect bundles. The world of business, for example, is this way – line items, spreadsheets, things that add up, that can be perfected. The legal system – not always perfect – but nonetheless a mind-numbing effort to actually write down all kinds of laws and instructions that cover all aspects of being human, a kind of umbrella code of conduct we should all follow.

Perfection is crucial in building an aircraft, a bridge, or a high-speed train. The code and mathematics residing just below the surface of the Internet is also this way. Things are either perfectly right or they will not work. So much of the world we work and live in is based upon being correct, being perfect.

But after this someone got through organizing everything just perfectly, he (or probably a she) was left with a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit anywhere – things in a shoe box that had to go somewhere. So, in desperation, this person threw up her arms and said, “OK! Fine. All the rest of this stuff that isn’t perfectible, that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else, will just have to  be piled into this last, rather large, tattered box that we can sort of push behind the couch. Maybe later we can come back and figure where it all is supposed to fit in.”  Let’s label the box ART.

The problem was, thankfully, never fixed, and in time the box overflowed as more and more art piled up. I think the dilemma exists because art, among all the other tidy categories, most closely resembles what it is like to be human. To be alive. It is our nature to be imperfect. To have uncategorized feelings and emotions. To make or do things that don’t sometimes necessarily make sense.

Art is all just perfectly imperfect.

Once the word Art enters the description of what you’re up to, it is almost like getting a hall pass from perfection. It thankfully releases us from any expectation of perfection. In relation to my own work not being perfect, I just always point to the tattered box behind the couch and mention the word Art, and people seem to understand and let you off the hook about being perfect and go back to their business.”

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  • I LOVE this!!! SO TRUE!!!

  • Carole K.

    So well said!

  • Win Ratz

    Beautifully worded, Nicholas, reminds me of the Japanese wabi-sabi. thank you!

  • Leslie

    Brene Brown isn’t a bad fan to have. I love her TED Talks, as do millions of others.

  • Phyllis Jenkins

    Nicholas, I just know all of your writing is going to turn into a book for artists….for everyone. Really a treatise on being a compassionate human being. Thank you so much…for taking the lifetime to develop your own unique self.


    This is a great description of the horror of perfectionism that you wrote for Brene Brown’s book just as your blog on getting things done but not at the same time. I find I am always falling into this trap especially if I am doing something on the computer and have to put in a password and the password does’t fit and so I go through the process of recovering it with questions and that doesn’t work and then it doesn’t like me using old passwords that I like, so I start over making new ones and I don’t get the confirmation number on my other device and meanwhile what I was trying to do is forgotten and time is going by. Today, this is just life and I cannot say I like it but one has to keep up with technology or be lost. BUT at 3pm today, I will stop this madness and do some painting. I will not think of anything else for two hours. Thank you for reminding me. Little boxes for everything and everything is not in place. Thats OK. Susan

  • Liz Muir

    Dare to have a bit of chaos, dare to be imperfect, love the unusual, don’t be precious and experiment.

  • Susan Darling

    Anne Lamott says that that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. I use this quote when I teach collage class. The title of the book is “Bird by Bird”.