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  • Writer's picturecarolyn land

Notes on Failing

“Talent does not declare itself in an instant.  It is not at the first attempt that one has the honesty to admit one’s inabilities.  How many attempts, now happy, now unhappy!…He who has not felt the difficulties of his art does nothing that counts.”                                                                                          Jean-Baptist-Simeon Chardin

Roughly, for every 20 paintings I do, one is a really good painting. I am not saying they are not acceptable, or sale-able.  I am saying, that in my eyes, in my “being”, I see something special in it, and I can look at it years later, and say it’s still one of my best works.  There is nothing I would change.

We all fail at some point.  It is part of the learning process. It is like a child who is learning to walk. He stands up and totters, falls down.  But he keeps getting up until he is good at it. The only way to be a good painter is to practice, practice, practice; and then…we grow.   But in the process we all produce some questionable attempts.

I told a class once that I threw away some painting when I was cleaning out.  They were aghast!  Yes, every once in a while, I purge.  I go through piled up finished work and say, I can do better. If it is acrylic or mixed media I can gesso over and start again.  Sometimes that under painting gives you a really interesting surface to work on.  If it is a pastel painting on sanded paper, brushing off the loose pastel and washing it with a brush with alcohol, gives you a new surface to work on.  But, there are those that just have to be filled in the circular file.

Collage by FL artist Carolyn Land

Color of Memory”   Old paintings torn into new collage.

I’ll tell you, it can be liberating.  One: it tells you that you have grown. Two: it tells you that you are learning to critique your work is a more mature way.  Three: it sometimes gives you material for collage.

When we first start out, or start something new, we are bound to have some failures.  It is a natural part of learning how to do, what we are attempting to learn.  We learn through those mistakes. We just have to remember to get back up.

Note to everyone:  Keep a couple of your early works. It is fun to look back and see how far you have come.


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