Are You Failing? Fail Better!

7:31 AM

Farm Fresh
3.5 x 8.5 inches
Watercolor and Ink
Handbook Watercolor
Sketchbook

I painted the latest image in my sketchbook direct with paint, no pencil. I consider it a failure. You may wonder why and I'll explain in a moment, but first, let's look at failure for a moment.

When I started the Artful Journaling eClasses, I was amazed at how often the words, afraid, fear and failure kept coming up in the comments.....afraid of failing, of not being good enough, of not doing it correctly, of being judged.

Then I started to take note of how often those words came up in all the classes, on blog posts (not just mine but also in my travels around the web), and in email conversations. It was OFTEN. 

Words have power and they quite often provide a peek into how we think and what we value. Usually, we're not even aware of how much we're revealing. 

So with all this fear creeping into our language, do we consider ourselves fearful? Do we walk around expecting to be judged as "not enough" or "less than" all the time? Are we so unsure about our abilities that we question whether we can learn every time we set pencil or brush to the page?

It's worth pondering. 

Going back to the piece over on the side....I say it is a failure because it failed to meet the goal I had set for myself—which is not necessarily obvious in the piece. I was seeking to capture that translucent look of the onion skin. I managed to get close in a couple of spots, but overall, I did not succeed.

It would have been more accurate to say "I did not meet my goal with this piece of art." Instead, I called it a failure, and chances are good that several of you were getting ready to argue with that assessment in the comments. 

When we first start out creating, it takes time to learn (and baby, there ain't no shortcuts!). What is the quickest possible to learn? To sketch, draw, paint and pursue the "doing" of our chosen craft as often as we can, as much as we can. It is in the "doing" that we will learn and only in the "doing." You can read, study and think about drawing until the cows come home each night, but if you're not putting it into practice, you're not learning and improving……and making mistakes.

Which brings up another point....practice is not a dirty word, but I'll save that for another post. Back to the point of this post, failing.....how often do you fail? How often do you count the high cost of failing—the wasted time, the wasted materials, the wasted effort? Every time? Most of the time? 

What if I were to say you've got it on the wrong side of the ledger? That failing is a necessary ingredient to growing, to improving, to learning new ways to see, to draw and to create? For the price of some time, materials and effort, I'd say it's pretty damn cheap, not to mention a great bargain!

As we grow in our chosen craft, we continue to fail if we continue to grow. What happens is that we fail better. Our failures become less obvious. We see them because we're the ones setting the goals. The more often we fail, the more we learn, the better we get, the more fun we have! Even failures become fun because there is always something to be learned. And we stop fearing failure quite as much.

Do we ever reach a level where we stop making as many mistakes? Yes. At some point, the mistakes we make change from "Damn! Why couldn't I see that?" to "I wonder what will happen if I put blue here? Oops, maybe not." And occasionally, to keep ourselves humble, we miss something basic. It's a reminder to go back and refresh, but we need not start over. 

So again I ask you....are you failing? Are you failing better?!

I hope so!!

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