3. The Beauty of Mistakes.

The Carriage, 2014, oil on panel, 16 x 20 inches, permanent collection Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (copyright Steven Kenny)

The Carriage, 2014, oil on panel, 16 x 20 inches, permanent collection Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (copyright Steven Kenny)

Except for the wildest physical deformities, we rarely see what most consider to be Nature's mistakes. Yet, on the unseen chromosomal level, millions of mutations are occurring every moment. Those so-called aberrations are the foundation of evolution and all living things would lose the ability to adapt and grow without those 'mistakes' of Nature.

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I grew up in a family of perfectionists. Mistakes were to be avoided at all costs. In many ways, perfectionism has served me well. However, it's also been the cause of a great deal of frustration. It's taken me many years to arrive at the conclusion that perfection is a myth. Any amateur woodworker learns this quickly. There's no such thing as a true right angle in cabinetry. The best one can do is come close to the abstract concept of 90 degrees. So, over the years I've tried to accept and embrace a way of living and working that allows for unexpected deviations from what I might consider to be the ideal norm.

Sketch (left) and final artwork (right). Copyright 401k Company.

Sketch (left) and final artwork (right). Copyright 401k Company.

Reluctantly, I began my artistic career as an illustrator. In that field, commercial clients rightfully want to see what their illustrated advertisement will look like before they pay for it. It's an illustrator's job to supply the client with a detailed sketch for approval before proceeding to the finished artwork (see above). No problem there. But, after transitioning from commercial art to fine art I continued to use the same approach even after the client was no longer part of the equation. I would work out all the compositional elements of each painting prior to picking up a brush in an attempt to eliminate any 'mistakes.' Over the years it slowly dawned on me that the external client I was still trying to satisfy was imaginary and the only person I really needed to please was myself.

At that point I began looking for ways to disrupt my perfectionist tendencies. This meant going against all my predilections and venturing into an uncertain artistic place. I have the utmost respect for those artists who achieve this on a much grander scale than I am capable by continually pushing their boundaries of personal expression. The advancement of art history rests on the shoulders of those artistic giants who lived on the creative edge, so to speak. I accepted the fact a long time ago that I am not cut out to be listed among them. Artists can only do what they can do---and do it well. Still, I believe discomfort is a necessary ingredient in any artist's individual growth.

Preliminary sketch (left) and finished painting (right). The Beach, 2015, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. (copyright Steven Kenny)

Preliminary sketch (left) and finished painting (right). The Beach, 2015, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. (copyright Steven Kenny)

These days, when beginning a painting, I start with just the main element of each composition (see above). I do not know in advance exactly what the finished image will look like. I plunge in and allow time and my intuition to do their work. Pictorial elements will be added or removed as deemed necessary during the painting process. As reckless as this may seem to some, it is a deeply satisfying and invigorating way of working. Rather than attempting to make all the creative decisions in advance---stopping my own conceptual dialog at the beginning in an effort to eliminate mistakes---I allow the internal conversation to continue. The result is a creation I could not have imagined until the moment it is actually finished.

That's life.

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