Friday, August 3, 2012


watercolor sunflower beginnings

Recently I told a student that I am not overly fond of doing landscapes or flowers, and after she left, I began to wonder about whether that is really true or not. Is it that I don't like doing landscapes and flowers, or could it be that I prefer to not face and tackle those things which tend to be a challenge, or downright hard-to-do for me? Have I given my friends, students, family and acquaintances the right to "fail", to learn, to move forward from that place, yet not allowed myself the same growth pattern?

Watching the Olympics this week has been inspirational, seeing all of the athletes compete in the various sports. But it occurs to me that if they turned away from all the times they didn't do well in practice, or in previous competitions, or if they didn't practice the elements they aren't overly fond of, they would not be competing in the Olympics at all. In fact, it was the redoubled efforts which came after "failure" that enabled them to progress and get better! 

Last night, watching the Russian gymnast Victoria Komova lose the gold medal was heart wrenching for me, regardless of who deserved to win the gold. This really young girl, who had worked so hard, and done so well, made an error that cost her the medal - she had "failed" in her own eyes. Yet, she is SECOND best IN THE WORLD!!! She rallied to receive the silver medal, but her disappointment was tangible. Still, she will use this experience to practice with more diligence than ever, and to laser focus on the areas which gave her difficulty. 

Art is somewhat similar for me. There are areas that are easy, and which I thoroughly enjoy creating within. And then there are the areas which present challenge and which require more diligence to create "successful" pieces. Engaging in those more difficult areas will only benefit all of my work, and so I intend to embrace and use "failure" to raise my work to a new level this fall. You can hold me accountable, and I would count that as a good thing! 

This morning, I posted this truism as my Facebook status update: "An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." (courtesy of Christine Kane)  I believe that. I want to live that! 

So, I have begun another small piece (8.5" x 11") in watercolor of a sunflower. This piece is based on a photo which was given to me by my photographer friend, Rick Paradie. And whether I do flowers or landscapes or any other subject well or not is really not my focus. My focus is to enjoy the process, to learn from the areas which are difficult, or don't turn out as expected, and overcome any fears which might be lurking about in the studio, causing me to procrastinate or exhibit avoidance-techniques. Do you feel similarly? Do you have a fear of failure that send you in the opposite direction, or do you use fear of failure to motivate you to higher levels? I would love to hear from you, and be encouraged by your story!

1 comment:

Sandi Lear - Oz said...

Interesting isn't many of us have followed a path laid out by others, rather than that which makes our hearts sing. As you know Joanne, my high school art teacher told me to stick to physics, now I love watercolour and it is totally addictive and why do we programme our kids? why do we let others steer us in the direction we are "supposed" to go?
Fear of failure? or fear of succeeding in something we don't want to do, thereby entrapping for though...