Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dare to Fail UP - thoughts on the creative process

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According to the Huffington Post’s third metric, redefining success beyond money and power, truly creative people often “Fail Up”.

What do they mean? Simply stated, truly creative minds often set themselves a goal or a problem, and try multiple solutions. They ruminate and allow their inner voice to be the guide to truly wonderful and some not so wonderful pathways. They fail more than they succeed. But the difference is that they do not translate that failure into a measure of personal failure. They tend to look at periodic and often repeated failures to achieve a goal as simply steps in their process of discovery to what does work. It’s that miles and miles of canvas thing again, rearing its insistent head.  And have you ever heard of WD40? Thirty nine failures? No - thirty nine tries to get to the success.

Lucky for me, a friend once said that the bulldog could use persistence lessons from me. Thanks John.

I often try things that do not work. I often change media just to shake up my unconscious  work habits.  New formats cause me to think in a different way. A rut becomes something to avoid at all costs. So I change supports and their measurement ratio. Changing a comfortable subject for one painted less often becomes a good idea. I might try working with oils more as a watercolor at first application. I might try glazing over an acrylic underpainting. One time I might try drawing with the brush on a canvas, only to use a color block in method the next time or a tonal wipe out on the third piece. An undertone to my painting support might become a raucous color tone of the opposite color on the color wheel, to what I envision the finish to be. I DO envision the finished piece before I start; the better to know when I am done.
Block In - Avoiding trail horses and almost as big ants

I read. I read about how to think of my work differently, to try something new, to critique it for different things. I love Maggie Price’s book on how to work through creative blocks. I read it even when I am not blocked. It keeps the creative juices flowing.
And I am not alone. Meredith Milstead, in her blog Excursions, shows a wiped out attempt at a plein air pastel followed by a lovely desert landscape. She showed the wipeout for crying out loud! Yay Meredith! She worked through it. But she got there by learning that what she tried before wasn’t going to work this time. She failed UP, and she succeeded.

I fail UP, choosing to put the emphasis on the UP part and not on the fail part of that term; because lately I am learning ever so much. A lot of my work lately has been wipers. I tell myself that it is the process. I am still building strength. I am still honing my eye.  I am becoming a critical viewer, a step that is essential to becoming a critical painter.

Painting certain elements in a composition are fraught with frustration. Maybe this time it’s a car, or a truck or a building. I have been known to wipe out an entire rocky beach because it contained, you guessed it , ROCKS. So it is with some trepidation that I show you this painting “Triangle  T Trail”, painted at the Triangle T Ranch in Texas Canyon, just off the I10, East of Benson AZ. It’s of an area known locally as Boulder Cove. I think that might have made a better title, had I known it. It’s between that rock and  a hard place, just south of the  interstate. I recommend stopping by if you need a place to stay and rest. The folks there are super.
Triangle T Trail
Oil 12x16 - Available

So regardless of the pressure to produce works, I find it more of a pressure to produce GOOD works. I paint and sometimes I wipe and paint over. I keep reminding myself to aim for higher than I think I can grasp and to allow the process of ‘failing UP’ to help me fulfill my promise.
Failing UP can be a really good thing, you see.

"Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often," Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein's creative genius.

Calling All Artists! 
Please click here to go to Black Range Art for exciting news about an October 2014 opportunity to show your art, win prizes and take part in a new New Mexico Art Event!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog post, Louise--good stuff to chew on. And a really nice painting!