Artist Tips

Failing Beautifully

I have approximately 200 finished paintings in our home and my studio, and this number does not include the 200-300 I’ve painted over or sent to the trash because I wasn’t happy with them. Very rarely do I paint over a painting I don’t like anymore, and that’s because I’ve improved over time. I also plan to hang on to most of these paintings because many aren’t representative of my current work. But what does all of this really mean?

I was talking to a friend today who started painting a few years ago and she said that she wasn’t confident enough to put her art out there yet. I assured her that it would come in time and that in the beginning, for every 100 paintings I created, only about 5-10 were good. Maybe not even good, maybe more like just decent. I’ve been painting since 2009, but for the first seven years, I was painting very rarely because I was working and at home raising our daughter. I figure since 2009 I’ve averaged at least seven hours of painting time each week, and that number is underestimated I’m sure.

My point is that that equals over 3,500 hours and without all that practice and all of the failures, I wouldn’t be where I am today. For every failure, I have found yet one more way not to do something. I see failure as a measurement of effort; If I never fail, that means I am not experimenting and stretching myself to the limits. I truly believe you aren’t growing if you’re not failing at times, too.

I don’t like it when people ask me how long it took me to paint something, because really, the true answer is that it took me 3,500+ hours to create it! In art, all of your experience — all of the cumulative failures and successes — are what allow you to create what you create today.

Even though I’m a better painter now than 10 years ago, I do still produce bad paintings sometimes, and as weird as it may sound, I’m proud of them because it means I am pushing myself, as not every new technique I try is going to work out – as is the case with my “NOPE” painting above!

So practice as much as you can, fail beautifully, and revel in your eventual successes. If you fail enough, you will succeed!

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