An Unlikely Friend


"Sunset iii"
oil on linen panel, 6" x 8"
We artists have to develop some very unordinary skills. And they have nothing to do with brushwork, or paint or seeing in some special way. They have to do with getting really chummy with a deeply dreaded character in our lives; FAILURE.

Yup! You read it correctly. Failure is a huge, ugly demon in life whose bark is greater than its bite. The fear of it keeps artists from stepping into the ‘untried’ and ‘unacquainted with’ parts of art. In other words, many of us are fearful enough of failure that we remain in the warmth and safety of the comfort zone. Any suggestion of moving away from, or out of that zone scares hell out of most.

If we actually examine it, we find (usually) that failure is not some gnarly, nasty, covered with spikes, 200 mile per hour motor scooter diving off the edge of a rocky cliff. In the world of art, Failure is the name of our teacher(s). It is in the crashes that we find our best lessons . . . that is in life, too, usually. And those lessons are remembered well!

Unlike the Indy 500 race or any other race where there lurks the grim reaper if a mistake is made, we must court failure as a welcome passenger all through our ride through the art jungle. One could almost say that in art, failure is the mentor.

It is from that mentor that questions are generated and answers sought. It is from disappointment that we seek to improve. It is from knowing where we want to go and falling short that we hear the voice “try again.” No one ever died or sustained serious injury from a mistaken painting. Yet, unexplainably, some artists absolutely avoid any risk of shortfall at al costs.

I’ll put my bets on those who are willing to be embarrassed in exchange for a lesson. There are good bets and long shots. Those who set aside pride in favor of ‘not succeeding’ in order to try the unknown will, by far, pass those who remain in the ‘comfy zone’ and never venture out and take a risk .

Now . . . .where is that machete? I need to hack my way through this jungle of color and pigment and mediums and drawing and perspective and all that stuff. There are snakes afoot, too! But so what?

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