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Defeating Failure

July 21, 2011

You know that point in a painting when you think “Crap, I’ve screwed this up. This piece is toast. I might as well chuck it.”

What do you do when you get to that point?

I ask because I was working on a new painting last night. It’s an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for months now. I have been wanting to do a painting, using my 25 Square technique, but on a smaller scale. I imagined it being like this piece, but smaller and more mosaic-like. Instead of having solid, flat blocks of colour, I wanted to incorporate a glazing fluid to create layers.

Well, needless to say, it didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

When I went to break the wood into the smaller squares, they broke very unevenly. To the point that most of them weren’t even squares. Meaning they didn’t fit back together.


I wanted to give up. I wanted to throw it out. I wanted to sit on the floor and cry. But I didn’t; I just kept going.

I ignored the fact that I had “failed” in my original endeavor and focused on seeing the piece for what it was, not what I wanted it to be. As I started re-arranging the wood, I realized that it might work after all.

So, when you reach that point where you feel like nothing is working and you might as well give up and start over, what do you do? Next time, try to work through it. There really is no such thing as failure in art, there are only  mistakes and solutions. Sometimes, the most interesting thing happening in a painting is the result of a supposed failure.

Judge your work not by what you hoped it would be, but by what it is, and find a way to work with those mistakes.

The piece in question? Well, here it is. Not a perfect square, but kind of charming in its own right!

abstract painting experimenting with glazes


From → Art General

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