Imperfection and the Art of Wabi Sabi

Cassandra Tondro collage art

Hi Friends,

I’ve been working on a new collage piece this week. All of the images are taken from the Spring 2021 issue of C California Style & Culture magazine, and I call it “California Dreaming.” Click on the image above to see it larger in a browser.

Everything was going great, and I liked the way it was coming together, until the very last stage when I applied varnish to seal and protect the piece.

I used pieces of cardstock for the grays and black on top of the magazine images. The cardstock is uncoated paper, and two of the grays absorbed the varnish unevenly. Ack! I hate when that happens. Here are three close-ups where you can see the uneven finish.

Cassandra Tondro collage art

Cassandra Tondro collage art

Cassandra Tondro collage art

It’s not a huge problem — you could even consider it to be an intentional effect — but it’s not what I wanted, and I’m pondering how that affects my feelings about the piece. Is this mishap a fatal flaw? I love the piece otherwise.

It makes me think of the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, where creatives strive for imperfection. Imperfect work gives the piece a human touch. Wabi sabi is an aesthetic that embraces imperfection, impermanence, and incomplete work.

I’m leaning toward letting go of my standards of perfection and leaving the piece as it is. What do you think?

Does art need to be perfect? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.

With love and appreciation,

Collage at top: “California Dreaming,” 20 x 20 inches, collage on wood panel



  1. Great piece! There are clientele that want only perfect and other clientele that embrace wabi-sabi. I love the graphic quality of the circles through which you view “life”. I’m thinking a series of this layout style could be rewarding.

  2. Hi Cassandra. My humble opinion is: Leave it be. Beyond the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is great – “mistakes” and imperfections were meant to be part of the history and destiny of the work. I remember a work by Rauschenberg – where accidentally his lithograph stone broke in two. Instead of feeling miserable about it – he proceeded to print the two broken pieces on a single sheet of paper. The end result- was a brilliant conceptual idea – which the viewer was intrigued to fathom. / In the case of your work, it may not be what the artist wanted – but it was what the work wanted – and used the artist as unwitting instrument. / To me: it’s lovely as it is. Leave it be.

  3. Great collage, like it. Love the imperfect people, I’m one of them. Some weeks ago, did a collage similar, cut some interior frame of piece and put here and there the frame. It call Interrelation. Imperfect world is better and easier to live. Good Spring Cassandra

  4. I really like this collage! The areas of “imperfection” you mention are actually nicely scattered throughout (kind of balanced) and enhance the piece.

  5. I would embrace the piece and the “imperfections”, I am always striving for perfection but as Cid mentioned, it may not be what the artist wants but what the work wants. Besides, without the imperfections it could be duplicated, and now it is truly a one of a kind work of art.

  6. I can see that it would torment me to have this happen to something I had composed. But often I fall in love with what I do if there is a way to do that. What strikes me is that I just spent two weeks in a brutal Watercolor I class from Moorpark Community College (Celia and Kitty are in there too) learning, among other things, to produce effects like the one the varnish produced in your work. In my previous life programming we would have asked, “Is it a feature, or is it a bug?” At any rate, I’m sorry this happened but I do like it. Chris

    1. That’s funny, Chris, that you were trying to create this type of effect! It’s growing on me, and it doesn’t seem to be so noticeable anymore. I think I can live with it!

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