Archive for October 29th, 2011

Other Failures

Back in March, I wrote a blog entry titled Failure where I discussed briefly how I deal with different aspects of failure as an artist.  One aspect I failed to mention was the possibility of failure due to things I have little control over.  For instance, the failure of materials that I use.

I mention this because of an incident in the last few days.  I was using a different type of panel due to my supplier being temporarily out of stock on my normal brand.  I treated it in the same way as I normally do all my surfaces that are to be painted, applying multiple layers of gesso over several days, giving each layer at least a day to dry before applying the next.  It has been a process that I have used for over a decade with little , if any problems. 

I took one of the newer panels that had been dry for well over a week and began painting.  I painted in my typically wet manner and worked for a little over an hour then set it aside to dry before diving back in.  I have been getting back into the swing and rhythm of my painting after the distractions of finishing several not-art related projects and this felt like a big step in the right direction.  It was vibrant and had edges that my mind was grabbing onto, setting off creative sparks.  The work is sometimes self-propelling.  However, when I came back to this panel, I noticed with some dismay that the surface had delaminated in several spots,  leaving large bubbles of paint, gesso and underlying paper.  It was something that I haven’t seen in years and I was a bit angry at the waste of my time and creative effort due to a material failure, not to mention the several other panels of the same material that I had already prepared that were waitng for me.  I realized that I probably couldn’t use them know, couldn’t trust that they would hold up to my painting process or beyond. 

There’s not much to be done in such situations and, in the bigger scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world.  Just irking to waste effort and lose newly gained momentum.

Another failure came many years ago when I was still painting in my house, before I had a studio of any sort.  I had taken on a project that would turn out to be pivotal to my career and was under a deadline to finish several pieces, all larger than I had attempted up to that point.  One was a large tryptych comprised of three panels.  I had all three panels laid out side-by-side and was working on them, nearing completion, when our cat jumped up on my table and ran across all three panels, leaving blue catprints on each from the paint that she had landed in on her jump to the table.  My heart and mind were immediately racing and I resisted the urge to send our little cat into a sub-orbital journey into space.

All I could see was lost effort, the lost potential.  I knew I could start over but I knew it would be hard to recreate the same rhythm and feel of this work.  Besides I didn’t have the time.  There had to be something that I could do.  I stepped back and just took it all in.  The catprints went completely across all three panels but there was something I saw.    They were all in the upper half of the pieces and had a dancing little rhythm to them.  Maybe they could be masked and incorporated into the piece.

Long story short, the tryptych ended up with several clouds that ran across them entire work, an addition that I think actually enhanced the work.   As with most failures, there were positives to be taken away from the experience.  The clouds were the first of that sort that I had painted into my work and have become regular parts of my vocabulary.   I also learned that there was often a creative  solution to any problems that might arise and that my reaction to such problems should be patient and measured.  Not a bad way to deal with all other problems as well.

Okay.  I could probably list dozens of other mistakes that I’ve faced over my time doing this.  Hell, probably hundreds.  But I have more mistakes to make right now and have to get to work.

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