This is the moment I am facing now. My painting is 2/3 done and I’ve decided to wipe out Dean’s face and start again.
Am I afraid of failing here? Absolutely. But it’s not going to stop me at all.
Failure is something we’re all schooled to avoid.
I see so many people focused on perfectionism to prevent failure. Stressing out over every detail, worried that the thing they’re doing or making will fail.
I say that we need to embrace failure for all that it gives us. Every step taken, is not a step wasted. Failure teaches us where we need to learn. What we need to pay attention to. And even what we don’t actually want after all.
Let me talk to you about failure when it comes to art.
I used to collect art supplies. The good paints. The excellent canvases. Ask me about my sketch book collection. I didn’t use any of this stuff because it was too good to waste.
Not painting and not creating in that time was entirely due to a fear of failure. I’d had all the art school training behind me. I had technical skills. But one day I put my brushes down and couldn’t pick them up again.
I did though, spoilers, and murdered many canvases before I found my groove.
The biggest thing I did was to give myself permission to use my materials. That it was a bigger waste to leave them unused.
That any failure wouldn’t kill me or bankrupt me.
I was going through my image files on this computer to share my earliest work. The pieces I made when I started painting again, but they’re not here. So.. I have more recent failures to share instead.
Each failed painting taught my a new skill. Showed me which direction could work and which definitely couldn’t.
The painting above was key to showing me that my use of colour needed refining. Not to mention my drawing skills. And the composition wasn’t working.
This is one of the few paintings I’ve gone back to redo. The moment was too intense not to be captured. And I wanted to get it right.
When I decided I wanted to do a series of paintings in the styles of artists like Van Gogh, I made a few paintings. Not all of them were successes.
The one below I count among my failures. But what did I get from it? Line work. I loved how a simple outline added to the painting. Especially around his chin and nose.
I also realized that cropping matters to me, a lot. I tend to close crop now because I’m more interested in faces and emotions than I am in shoulders and chests. I want the dominant part of the painting to be the face.
From this one, I learned to pay more attention to moments. To experiment with the colours of shadows more. The blue there doesn’t really work.
But all those failures (and more… there are SO MANY MORE), led me to a point where I have more successes. Like the painting below, which is one of my all time favorites.
I wouldn’t be at this point, painting for IMAlive and for commissions without the lessons that came from failure.
Without, even, overcoming my fear of wasting my art supplies.
Without welcoming failure into my work.
I paint live, even on the new, scary experiments I do, because I embrace failure. I don’t just want to show my followers and fans perfection. It doesn’t exist.
So, what would you do if fear of failure wasn’t holding you back? How can you welcome it into your life, and learn the lessons it has to teach?