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Learning How To Fail

“Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success”


To be a successful artist the first thing you MUST learn isn’t proportions.  It isn’t angles or anatomy.  It isn’t drawing or shading.  It isn’t light and color theory.  It isn’t even (as some people will tell you) how to “look”.

No.  The first, and most vital thing you must learn as an artist is how to fail.  Repeatedly. 



Sometimes catastrophically.

Because you will.

And those failures big and small are a necessary part of growing and honing your skills.  

My trash can has seen far more of my art than any of my fans and followers ever will.  Believe me, I have made some absolutely hideous pieces of art.  And that isn’t even counting various unhappy accidents that are just a part of life.  Like the time my cat walked through my wet palette, and then all over a large piece I was halfway through painting, leaving neon green and muddy purple paw prints behind.

The real trick is teaching yourself to accept these failures big and small, and use them to motivate you instead of discouraging you. 

Take a step back

Failure can be disappointing and frustrating.  I think we all hold ourselves to high standards, and everyone wants something that they have put time and effort into to be a grand success.  Its easy to get discouraged or even angry at ourselves when things don’t turn out the way we want them to.  And that’s okay.  These are normal feelings.  Allow yourself to feel them for a brief moment.  But don’t let yourself dwell on them.  Instead give your head a little shake (like an etch-a-sketch), take a deep breath, and re-evaluate the situation.  Try to look at it from a logical standpoint instead of an emotional one.  The failure likely isn’t as bad as you think it is.

Damage Control

Now that you are in a clear headspace, its time to clean up the mess.  Whatever that may be.  Determine whatever steps may be necessary to resolve any problems that have arisen.  If its a spilled cup of water, go fetch some paper towels.  If its a tear in your booth wall, get out your sewing kit.  Call the bank, call your support network.  Do what is needed to recover and get yourself back on track.

Find the Root Cause

Once you are on firm footing again, take a look back and figure out exactly what went wrong.  Dig deep to find the root of the issue. 

Was it due to a lack of knowledge or practice?  Did you have the necessary resources to accomplish your task, or were you trying to make do with less?  Did you fully commit, or were you only giving it a halfhearted effort?  Is it something you even want or need to do? Was the timing right?   Sometimes the fear of doing something wrong causes us to not give it the effort it deserves, or the knowledge that something will be difficult can make us hesitant to delve too deeply into it.  Ask yourself these hard questions and give yourself honest answers. 

Do Better next time

How can you prevent it from happening again?  How can you use that to improve in the future?  Did the hand you were drawing come out looking like five sausages stuck in a pumpkin?  Then maybe a good course of action would be watching hand tutorial videos online, or practice hand positions by tracing photographs, or even taking an anatomy class.  

In the case of the cat and the palette, a solution could be (and I say this with love) locking the little monster out of the studio.  Or switching to an angled desk, so he can’t walk on it.  Or covering the palette when it is unsupervised.  



You may not be able to make a happy little tree out of whatever mishap has occurred, but you can certainly use it as a learning experience to help you grow and improve both in art and in life.  And always remember, failure is proof that you at least tried.

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