Give Yourself Permission to Failby Lori Woodward
Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She also writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
During the last two days, I've been reading Seth Godin's new book (a short one) called Poke The Box. Like many of his books, this one has a straight forward, simple message. Ideas are great, but unless someone actually acts on those ideas, nothing gets accomplished. Success is more than great ideas. It means experiencing failures without fear in order to arrive with something that works.
I read the book in two evenings, and because the message was simple, it made a lasting impression. For some of you who've been reading my blogs for awhile, you'll know that I'm full of ideas -- but I will confess that I sometimes forget to act on those ideas long enough to see if they're going to work. My brain generates dozens of new ideas each week, and while having a brain like this might seem like a blessing, sometimes it's my enemy. Unless I find a way to test my theories and work through them, what good are they?
Seth's books do not contain earth shattering messages, but do contain simple truths. His words remind me of "wheels on suitcases". For years, we dragged heavy suitcases around airports, when the simple solution was adding two little wheels. Likewise, this book's simple message showed me that successful people try a lot of different things that often fail. We, on the outside don't see the experiments and failures, we only see the fruition of what actually worked.
What this means to me as an artist is that I must "do/try something" in order to grow. As I experiment, try new mediums, I will undoubtably make many disasters, some reasonably good works of art, and a few masterpieces. The truth is, I can't get to the masterpiece stage unless I'm willing to feel comfortable with the disasters.
So, when you decide to take your work to the next level by working out of your own box, be prepared for what feels like backward movement. When you decide to make some serious progress or change for the better in your body of work, the masterpieces will most likely elude you for a time, but they will come - and you'll be better off in the long run than if you work contentedly - making the same old paintings you've made for the past decade.
Collectors expect artists to move forward and continue to WOW them. I'm friends with a few serious collectors, and they are not interested in acquiring something that looks like it came off an artist's assembly line. We are artists - not factory workers. Why would we want to "crank 'em out" just to make a buck?
I worked as a quality assurance software tester for eight years before getting back to my artwork, and that job took a lot of skill and creative thinking. I got paid very well and did an excellent job - but let me say here, that getting quality into my artwork has been more difficult than testing software, and has taken many more years to develop my knowledge base and style. No matter how much or little ability you're given genetically, "talent" must be continually cultivated throughout life.
Don't be afraid to experiment. Experimentation leads to new ideas and eventually to mature works of art. First, the artist learns about drawing, value, color and edges - in her brain. Then the artist begins to put these time-worn theories into his work, and guess what? As Edgar Payne states in his book on landscape composition, "Then the trouble begins". It's easy to see how other artists used these principles in their work; adding them to your own is another story.
Even though you've sold your work for a number of years, taking a workshop or reading an advanced art instruction book often leads to initial confusion. Sometimes, artists abandon adding new insight to their compositions and return to the "same old thing" that has worked for them in the past. There's nothing wrong with painting the same old thing if it makes you and your collectors happy, but I believe you may be missing out on what your artwork could be.
Give yourself permission to fail for a while, especially when you add new principles to your work. Even masterful painters have failures - they usually burn them. I'm not kidding! We're all human. Only those who paint by formula seemingly obtain perfection every time. But again... we are artists, not factories. It's more fun if we don't program our art as though it were an assembly line product. Be brave enough to make a flop, or several until you arrive at something that's well beyond your usual work. Have faith that each experiment is contributing to your eventual masterpieces... something beyond the ordinary, in fact... extraordinary.
I know it's hard. Hang in there, even if it takes a few years. Don't deny yourself the time for sketches, playing with ideas, and making something so incredible that viewers gasp at your work.
Work Hard, Work Smart, and Be Patient With Yourself.
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