At least once a week, I break an artistic egg. In art vernacular that means chunking a $10 piece of watercolor paper (with 10 hours of drawing on it) in the big round file, commonly known as the trash can. At the beginning of my career, this really hit me hard. The loss of a $10 piece of paper, when I didn’t have $10 to waste, was a bitter pill to swallow. Then the loss of the time invested in my drawing, and the mental set back, all helped to convince me that I had failed.
My response to this perceived failure was usually manifested in a fit of rage, happily married to a string of colorful expletives. Usually this occurs because I made a snap color decision that turned out to be wrong.
Green has been particularly adept at beating me about the head, then sending me packing. Me and Green have an old ongoing rivalry where, for the most part, he continues to win on a routine basis.
I have, to some extent, started to embrace my failures as something worthwhile. No one likes watching their efforts reduced to a crumbled mass of 140 lb. cold press debris, but I have come to realize that this process (of screwing up) is making me a better painter. How is this possible?
Well, the first and most obvious benefit will come when I redraw my painting. My second attempt will give me an additional 8-10 hours to contemplate my original failure. Some of us require multiple failures to “tune in” to the painting process. I’m afraid I fall into this category. Also, I won’t try the method or technique again that brought me to this point in the first place. Even an artist won’t put his hand on the hot stove twice.
The real growing opportunity lies in a larger philosophical outlook, and it is this…..I’ve come to realize that when I experience failures, it’s because I’m expanding my painting knowledge and pushing myself to a new and higher level.
Typically, after a catastrophic mistake, I produce a painting that is obviously of a higher quality. The real secret to this process is to maintain a positive attitude during the first failure. If I fly off the handle in a fit of artistic rage, I ruin my chances of pushing to the higher level. You must become a mature artist who embraces his monumental failures with grace and a spirit of learning (kind of a WWJDFA – what would Jesus do for Artists).
It sounds easy, but when you blow that first effort, everything in you wants to come apart. This is tougher for firebrand personalities, and guys, in general. But trust me, it is an artistic truth. Now go forth and paint in a calm, controlled manner. And learn from your mistakes!
FOOTNOTE: Socks, the cat, is still refusing to find new owners. He has sunk his taproot with Pam and me (and four dogs who are still intent on pressing the nine lives issue). However, he has started earning his keep with the following “captures” under his belt:
-- 2 lizards
-- 1 Cicada
-- 1 Gecko
-- 1 Coral Snake
-- Numerous grasshoppers
-- 1 Failed Rabbit Stalk