Monday, June 9, 2014

When Things Go South

C'mon, it's happened to the best of us. At one point or another, our stomach dropped and a flush of perspiration came coupled with a surge of saliva. You blew it. That "awesome piece" got lost in a few badly placed strokes, you went ca-razy with the highlights, those two colors blended to yucky mush... or maybe you don't even know where it all went South. But somewhere along the line it did. And now you find yourself mirroring a disappointing effort with a disappointed face.

What do you do?

I find that my worst work was rooted in insecurity. That's not much of a comfort when those very works make me feel all the less secure in my painting prowess. And how would I then bounce back from that to make the next piece confident? 

What you do with the piece is up to you. Hide it in a drawer, burn it, gesso over it or beat it to death trying to redeem some of its life--go for it. But I think the spirit in which you do it is what's most important; it sets you up for how you'll approach its predecessor.

Whatever you do: OWN IT

I try again because it's my piece and I'm telling it that its place in this world was always as a rough draft.
I hide it because every artist has drawers full of laughable work, stepping stones and humbling reminders. This one is mine.
I burn it because I created it and I can destroy it.
I gesso over it because it's my canvas--and I'll yet make you useful!
I keep working it over because I've got a vision and a hope for it. 

This is my piece--commissioned or not, good or not, finished or not.

Feel the ownership in that. Developing artists so often feel like the artwork has betrayed them or their skill has betrayed them. You've heard them say, "it didn't turn out like I wanted," or "I just can't do it as well." Those statements may be true (I've said them myself), but be sure to not say them as if the art happened to you. 

Own your mistakes and where you are right now. Own that ugly painting, rejection letter, or failed attempt. They don't define you. You define them. 

You may not be a master artist yet, but you're the master of what you do. 

Keep. Painting.