How I take perfection out of the picture

when Biba Smith wants to de-stress, she turns to art. here she shares how Julia Cameron shows the way and why SHE CHOOSES FREEDOM NOT picture-PERFECT.

In a busy life, I find it hard to switch off, detach from everyday stress, and find somewhere my soul is at peace. So I get out my paintbrushes.

I have always loved to sketch and paint – it has not only helped to keep me occupied but it’s ended up bringing me so much more. I have suffered with anxiety and depression and found it hard to focus and to quiet my thoughts. When I’m painting, I experience a feeling of freedom. Being someone who is not so good at talking about how I feel, I found my canvases were becoming my sounding board. Instead of keeping my feelings bottled up, I could direct them into what I was painting. I’ve been painting daily now for two years, and I can honestly say it’s been my therapy.

The time I have to paint is my sanctuary, my happy place, and a safe space to express myself without judgement or expectation. Having people appreciate my artwork is just a massive bonus. I have connected with many fellow artists over social media, and it’s opened up a whole new group of wonderful people to my life.

Finding something you are passionate about, something that gives you the space to clear your mind is so important. Art has given me a new focus and a reason to get excited. They say that everyone has a soulmate and painting is mine.

4 whys to follow The Artist’s Way

Like creatives from musician Alica Keyes to author Elizabeth Gilbert, I have taken inspiration from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This famous bestseller is 30 years old this year and offers a 12-week programme of exercises, including her ‘daily morning’ pages and weekly ‘artist’s dates’. It has earned Julia the moniker of the ‘high priestess of creativity’. The multimillion-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert says: “Without The Artist’s Way there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.”

Re-connect with your creativity

I started reading The Artist’s Way when I was having a bit of a creative-block meltdown. When I’m lacking inspiration I need to step away from creating, and try to reconnect with myself. Julia Cameron talks a lot about perfectionism causing sorrow. I have always been extremely self-critical of my artwork, and of myself in general. I would sometimes paint a piece and it would end up in the bin the next day because of its flaws. I have learnt that art isn’t striving for perfection, but to express yourself, and incite interpretation and emotion in its audience. This includes any ‘flaws’ it has from my perspective.

Step away from perfection

Since letting go of perfectionism, my work has taken a different turn. I now paint only what comes from my imagination and emotions. It’s filled with interpretation of my surroundings, my connections to life, and the universe. To see the connection people have made with certain pieces has blown me away. I no longer strive for perfection and it fills my heart and soul with joy to see how my work has a positive impact on its audience.

I believe all artists will struggle with validation during their careers. Fellow artists have told me it’s hard to let go of wanting to please others with their work, rather than creating for their own purpose. I have recommended The Artist’s Way because I believe it can massively help artists to make those important connections with themselves again, and to take away that need to find constant validation that their work is ‘good enough’.

Art, for me, is not about impressing others or gaining recognition for my technical ability, but all about telling a story and stirring emotion for its viewers. Julia helps with some irreplaceable life tools to get you connected with yourself again and find meaning in what you do.

Tools to empower us

I loved Julia’s podcast with Fearne as she delivers daily and weekly tools to empower you – not only as an artist but personally. Her stance on daily non-religious prayer is effective for helping you get in touch with where you are now and also where you want to head to in your future. Since I’ve practised non-religious prayer it’s improved so many areas of my life including my mental health.

Checking in each evening before bed to run through what you are thankful for, where you want to flourish moving forwards, and acknowledging you’re here-and-now feelings, is therapy in itself. Julia recommends weekly ‘artist dates’ for how we can enrich our lives and stay grounded and connected to ourselves.

Find your happy place

I have a huge affinity with trees, nature, and animals. Just the smell of a forest or being near a tree brings me energy like no other. Julia really encourages you to find these happy places, and to indulge in them weekly. Once we let go of feeling guilty for bringing ourselves happiness in our hectic and fast-paced lives, it really does create that route back to a higher power.

Art by Biba


Connected is a painting with so many meanings for me, and I love how it can be interpreted in infinite ways. To me, it’s about our connection to the universe, and how our actions  have a significant role in life. It also signifies my own reconnection to my spiritual self, and the invisible thread I have with my surroundings.

Moon Dreaming 

This was created from my love of the sky. I have always been fascinated by the moon, the stars, and the scale of what’s outside our own planet. This painting really is a symbol of how things are so much bigger than us, and that we can only dream of what is beyond our comprehension. Again, our connection to the universe.


Cosmic Eye 

This was a painting I created in the first lockdown. It is a symbol of us all looking and seeing what was going on around us, but the colours beyond that signified a mix of confusion, the unknown, and how we had to adapt to a new world. It was a journey of, again, looking to the universe, and realising that some things are out of our control, but we can always have hope.

See more on wellbeing