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Weekly Blog on creativity and what it takes to be an artist by David Limrite (artist, teacher, mentor & coach)


David Limrite-Artist, Coach, Mentor, Teacher

Failure is integral to the process of art making. If you are not failing, you are not pushing yourself and not taking risks.

How you choose to handle these missteps is the key. You can let a mistake devastate you, even to the point of giving up. Or, you can be inspired, learn from your failure, keep at it and try again. I try to consider my failures as new pieces waiting to emerge.

Failures give me freedom. At first there is going to be frustration and anger. Eventually you get the courage to plunge back into the work again. But with a different attitude this time. "What else can I try?" There are a whole host of new possibilities. You have a new lease on life. Several new paths begin to emerge. You pick a new path and try again.

Sometimes paintings fail when we lose interest. Or if it becomes too hard. It is easy to get discouraged. But you love painting and you refuse to give up. You keep going. You push yourself. You listen. You look for clues. You take risks. You try things. Some of these things will work and some of them will not. You push the painting. It's the only way. And if you give in to the process, it can even be fun.

Creating art is a mysterious process. We all love a good mystery. "Where do I go from here?" "What will happen if I try this?" You keep after it and push your comfort zone. You paint more, look more and paint some more.

Maybe the issue is that you are too controlled or you have over planned the painting. When unknown things happen to your painting, you have to resist the temptation to control them and stop trying to make them into something you already know. Sometimes it is best not to know when a painting is not going according to plan.

Sometimes we have a preconceived idea of what a painting should look like. Sometimes we don't know at all. I try to strike a balance between the two. I start a new painting with a rough idea of what I think I want so at least I have a path to begin to explore. The I try to remain open to different paths as the painting progresses.

This approach makes it much harder to fail because I do not really know what is supposed to happen. At some point, I step back and assess the piece. If I don't like the piece, it just means that it is not finished and I keep going. So, really, the only time I encounter failure is if I give up on the piece. That's it.

The more you paint, the clearer you become about what an individual painting is supposed to be. But we still seem to come no closer to understanding what painting is and that is what keeps us going: trying to figure out what this mysterious process we call painting is.

Of course, you are going to have expectations. High expectations. Which is fine and necessary. You should always predict success, however, you must remain open to the possibility of failure. The only way to find out what will happen is to try. Otherwise, you will never know. And that is not an option.

See the possibilities in your failures, instead of allowing them to stop you. And try not to perceive failures as mistakes. Let go of preconceived ideas and intentions. Deal with what your painting looks like right now, not what you wanted it to look like or what you think it should look like. Sometimes we are so married to our ideas that we think we have made a mistake if the painting doesn't look like what we thought it should.

Let your painting have a life of it's own.

Failure is, indeed, freedom.

Above image: "Untitled", mixed media on wood, 56"x24"

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