Wordy Wednesday: Learning to Embrace Fail and Fast

One of the important things I’ve learned over the years about art is that it’s okay to make bad art.

It’s okay to fail.

It’s part of the learning process of art.

Back when I was in college I pushed myself to make every piece of art I approached a successful work. I worked hard on things and labored over stuff and I grew to hate it. There were few pieces of art that I really liked when I was in college. Over the years I worked on less and less outside of class until my last year where I became fascinated with Matisse’s collages and started making my own with crayons and white glue. I loved making collages. The great thing about it was that it was easy to make something vaguely attractive.

After I left school and I worked with kids I realized that a good part of what I had learned was how to fail and how to make really really really bad art.

Some of the stuff I made in college was awful.

Really bad awful.

I avoided painting class but the funny thing is that some of my more successful pieces from college were from painting classes.

I’m not sure why I avoided those classes. Perhaps I didn’t want the challenge or I was too distracted by all the ohh shiny stuff of other stuff I hadn’t done yet- carving plexiglass? Why, yes please!

I gave myself a challenge today, to complete a 5x7inch painting of stuff in my office while on my lunch break. Before my break I noticed that my hand sanitizer bottle and tabbed paperclips made an interesting composition. I quickly set up my pochade box, grabbed a panel and sketched out the little bottle and clip, super rough. It took less than 5 minutes to sketch them out. I squeezed out 3 colors: titanium white, unbleached titanium (titan buff), and cobalt blue hue. I grabbed a crappy #1 bristle brush and dipped into the blue, applying color in bold strokes. I then added the unbleached titanium in dabs and small strokes, allowing the color to blend directly on the page. As I worked the thinner layers of color  dried the thicker layers stayed slightly moist. I scrubbed color here and there, dabbed it in other places.

At the end of 30 minutes I snapped a picture of my piece and posted it to twitter.

If I spent another 30 minutes on this painting it would be inherently better. I’d add more layers of color, maybe some glazes and maybe add some other colors. I could firm it up and make into a finished piece.

That defeats the point of a piece like this.

A piece like this is meant to stretch your skills force you into looking in broad bold strokes and attacking the canvas/paper.

There is no mincing around when working small and fast. There is no going back and touching up  little slips here and there.

It’s go.

Here’s the thing, I’m not beating myself up because this isn’t my best painting ever, instead I’m looking at it as a starting point. From here I can only get better. In 30 minutes I’ll be able to produce something neat.

But I won’t kick myself if I fail.