Friday, October 11, 2019

Failure is vital for an artist

Sometimes, we all fall

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” ~ James Joyce

When we create something, our efforts sometimes seem to fall far short of our expectations.  This is normal.  Not only normal - it can open new doors for us, but first we have to be ready to see with new eyes.  This requires a certain mindset of non-judgement, of acceptance, of wholeheartedly embracing an idea that (to me at times) is often like cuddling a porcupine. 

We are on the first leg of our nature journal class, and our first plein air outing.  Sketching in the field is challenging enough, but if you are a beginner or brushing up on rusty skills, it can be a bit daunting!  Our group did very well, I’m glad to say.  However…

There was a bit of perceived failure among our new artists. 

“Don’t think of it as failure. Think of it as time-released success.” ~ Robert Orben

The thing we call FAILURE
can be our inner GUIDE.

If we change the word FAILURE (and all of its baggage and heavy meanings) to GUIDE, everything changes.  Now we can let the thing we once called mistakes or failures become:

our teacher     a new path     deeper growth    
discovery     enchantment     joy

Joyful Pumpkin – a success and a failure!
Success = process and fun
Guide = foreshortened stem needs work

We cannot live without making mistakes or knowing failure, and How We Respond makes all the difference.

Failure and expectation are entwined:  we expect, it does not come to pass, we call it failure.  I try to approach each new sketch or painting with a plan, but with an open heart and mind to process.  Often a drawing starts off one way and turns into something else.  This is creation in action – a wonderful thing!  

Sometimes what we create is successful but also contains a mistake (or more).  Don’t let the mistake part overshadow the parts that work!  If what you’ve created filled your creative soul, don't let a wrong proportion, or a stray line or ink blot take that away.  Let perceived failure be the voice of your inner GUIDE.  And be aware that sometimes a mistake can make things work better!  This is where “seeing with new eyes” helps.  Put your work away and look at it again in a few days or weeks.  Ask a trusted friend or artist what they see.  You may discover something amazing.

“It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.” ~ Oprah Winfrey 

Arches hot-press watercolor paper, 140 lb.
Daniel Smith watercolor
Derwent watercolor pencil
Wax resist

About 6x9 in


  1. Hello, I log on to your blogs on a regular
    basis. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep it up!