Failures!

A failed drawing.

A failed drawing.

The above image shows an entry into my art journal with a piece of ripped up drawing glued to the page.  I have kept an art journal, by the way, since 1998.  It isn’t like a diary which is written in every day but I write whenever I feel like it.  (Currently I’ve just begun volume 11.)

I kept this relic of a drawing because I liked Kotomi’s eyes even though the drawing was no good.  The heavy scribbled lines over the drawing indicate my state of mind – ‘THAT’S IT!!!’ – as I killed the work with angry strokes before ripping it up.  (I usually furiously scribble over a picture before ripping.)

Art students may have the mistaken belief that professional artists don’t have failures.  Perhaps some don’t but I have many failures.  Even though I don’t like having them, they are important as they are a result of forging forward into difficult territory.  (I think.)

It is easy to be disheartened though and I find I easily lose confidence when a work has gone into the rubbish bin.   (I tell myself that the drawing AFTER a failure always works out.  History seems to support this theory.  Anyway, I’m sticking to it.)

Sometimes there is such a fine line between a work succeeding and ending up in the rubbish.  The “Ichifuku-san” drawing I just finished nearly didn’t make it.  I couldn’t get the face right but I was desperate to make it work as I had invested a lot of myself into it.  I put some geisha singing on the CD player to try to channel that energy into my head and hand – and actually that worked.  The drawing came right.  Saved by the geisha singing.  (I don’t know what the neighbours thought.  I had the volume up quite high.)

The trouble with pencils is, they are so labour intensive that I can be working on something for a couple of weeks before I realise it is a lost cause and ditch it.

All the same, as bitter a pill as a failure is, it is still an important part of learning.  The learning never stops whether you are a student or a professional.  Hence the failures never stop.        ______________________________________________________

I saw the film “Hitchcock” today with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.  In the story, Alfred Hitchcock thinks “Psycho”, the film he is working on, is a failure.  He says to his wife, Alma, “I didn’t pull off the picture this time.  It just sits there, refusing to come to life…” -then  – “There’s no other way to say it…it’s stillborn.”

I couldn’t put it better myself.  That is exactly how it feels when a drawing is not working.  Those spoken words were so familiar to me that I had to scrabble for a pen and paper from my bag, whilst in the dark cinema, to write them down.

Related posts:  Art Hell and Art Hell 2 and Quality Control

ps if you would like to see the five drawings of Kotomi which DID work, they are on the post Five Views of Kotomi

7 Responses to Failures!

  1. Virginia Benker says:

    I was about to go to bed when I noticed the word “failures” included with your blog titles and I had to open it up and read it. I could not believe that such a talented artist like yourself would have experienced any failures in your art ( oh sure, maybe way in the beginning). I have to say it gives me hope to continue working toward being a better colored pencil artist. At this

  2. Virginia Benker says:

    At this stage of my life I hope and pray for far more successes and fewer failures. Thank you for sharing your personal info. Best wishes, Virginia
    PS. Have you ever thought about writing a book?

  3. Hi Virginia, Well if I can give readers hope, that is excellent. Oh believe me, I have failures, doubts about art, doubts about direction, every sort of doubt that anybody else has.
    The worst thing would be to feel that every single piece must succeed. If I booked exhibitions too often I might feel that pressure. I book them nice and far apart so that I have the time to factor in pictures not succeeding.
    As to writing a book, I’ve thought about it but haven’t gotten further than that. I like this format as I can answer questions as they come up, like yours. I hope readers are enjoying this because I’m loving it! Sharing ideas is a delight.
    (That is another thing – I work alone like a hermit, so dialogue such as this is a treat).

    • Gail Croome says:

      The word failure jumped out at me. Imagine an experienced artist having this problem. I recently spent a considerable amount of time on a drawing, only to mess up the whole effect by the background not being just right. I decide to cut out the butterfly from the backgroung and incorporate it into a card, sometimes we have to think outside the square to make another creation. I think some of my stuff-ups have accidently created another outlet. Love your work !

      • Hi Gail, I think it is a misconception out there in the world that professionals (at anything) don’t stuff up. It is a natural part of the learning process – and – we NEVER stop learning. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I’m thinking my successes might not reach the level of your failures! This is a great post by the way.

  5. Tara says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!! I love that you have failures and you have the confidence to share them with the world. When I see art that is of such a high caliber and extreme sophistication; it is difficult to remember that art isn’t magic and that the brilliance of your perseverance is simply that. Your ability (granted with talent to see the world from your unique perspective) and your constant companion called practice once started out with simple crude strokes and the essence of a dream. I appreciate those blessed few failures you do have because perhaps one day with enough effort my simple crude strokes can obtain your level of greatness.

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