Friday, September 18, 2009

Success through learning from your "failures"

Climbing The Root Glacier, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

When is the last time you did a piece of art that you, upon stepping back from at its completion, did you really dislike? As artists and creatives, we have a tendency to be quite critical of ourselves. Mind you, being critical is GOOD as it helps us prune away the mediocre, shave off weak techniques and learn from them. We need to be critical to improve. However, what I want to address here is what we do with our "failures", our discarded paintings, and what we do with them in our minds too. Each is just as important.

I have an area in my studio where I have stacked paintings from college and one or two relatively recent pieces that I abandoned because I knew they would never be what I wanted them to be. I look back on some of those college pieces and think, hey, not bad! However, often I look back on them and want to burn them. But I don't. I keep them there and look at them when I pass...look at them as a reminder of where I have come from and where I am now in relation to that past "lesson".

What is it that makes you realize that what you are working on, be it a song, a poem, a sculpture, a symphony, is not working? Do you overwork the piece? Do they colours get muddy and the lines blur? Do you fuss and then cannot look at it without your eye immediately going to the area that you fussed with? Have you turned the bowl on the wheel and made it so thin that it has cracked? I say fire that cracked bowl still...because it is a lesson! It helps you evolve and learn what NOT to do next time! Now, I understand that much of the creative process is wrapped up in an unconscious state of flow, where your mind is somewhere else, absorbed in the work usually, and you almost cannot help yourself from doing these is almost a compulsion. I urge you to stop and take a step back. I think that one, well-placed brushstroke can easily convey what you need to convey versus twenty small ones...BUT keep in mind I work differently than many artists...hyper realists for example, who paint within an inch of their life. Their work is sublime, but requires a patience and manual fortitude that I simply do not possess. So do what you need to do when you do your craft, but do it with purpose and intention, with mindfulness...yet do not be afraid to make mistakes is a delicate balance!

Let's look at this from another perspective. If everything that we painted was brilliant, right from the start, would we appreciate it as much? Anything worthwhile and cherished requires a devotion of time and work to be successful. If something requires effort, we love it all the more because of what we learned along the way towards that achievement. So save your failures...they are not really failures, they are lessons that we have experienced that make us the stronger and more accomplished artists and creatives that we are today.

Have a beautiful day, and share some happiness!


Quick update: There will be an article on my upcoming Newfoundland Portraits Exhibition in The Newfoundland Herald Magazine next week. If you happen to live in Newfoundland or have access to magazines there, pick up a copy!

The exhibition is fast approaching. Mark it in your calendar! :)

Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm
179 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

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