Monday, October 24, 2016

The Rejects

 "To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been."
                                                                                                   ~ Chester Barnard

The duds. Let's call them Pear #12, 13 and 14

The problem with painting is that it doesn't always go well. Many paintings, for whatever reason, miss the mark and end up in an artist's reject pile. Even the great Masters painted over unwanted pieces, which modern science is now allowing us to see. (If those artists knew we were exposing their abandoned works, I wonder how they'd feel...) This should give us artists some comfort, but I will admit it is small comfort to me. As many times as I tell my students "Every painting is just practice for the next.", my failed paintings eat away at me. I was not even going to show you the "bad" paintings from my 30 Pears in 30 Days project, but if I didn't then I'd just be perpetuating the belief that a "real" artist has talent that magically makes every painting perfect, which I firmly believe is a myth that needs to be dispelled. So many people give up on making art because their work is not perfect.

My mother subscribed to this belief, which is why she did not support me as a developing artist. I stopped showing her my work after a while. Many years later she happened to see some of my work through a family friend and was shocked at how far I'd come. Yet this still didn't dispel her belief in the myth. A few years later she decided she wanted to learn how to draw, so she enrolled in an evening class for beginning drawers. She quit after two classes because, in her words, the instructor hadn't taught her how to draw.

There is no magic formula to making art - just hard work and study. Art, just like any other skill, takes practice. Lots of it. Years and years of it. And even when you've reached a certain level of mastery, there will still be bad paintings, bad days when you wonder why you're even bothering, months when you wonder if you'll ever be "good enough". Too much self-doubt can lead to giving up, but in moderation, that doubt is a good thing. Perhaps without that doubt, we wouldn't push ourselves to keep getting better. If we thought our work was already perfect, we might not be motivated to keep improving. As the Robert Hughes quote goes: "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

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