Although this is a motivational article, I’m going to have to start by talking about a failed painting of mine. But, don’t worry, there’s lots of uplifting motivational stuff in the rest of the article. And, yes, I’ve almost certainly said all of this stuff before, but it’s worth repeating every now and then.
Anyway, the day before I wrote this article, I made the first daily painting that I’ll be posting here in January. Due to being uninspired and being in a slight rush, it looked more like something from 2015/16 than anything I’d make these days. In other words, it was a painting that I considered to be a “failure”. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:
But, why have I mentioned this? Well, it’s to show you that it’s ok to fail at making art sometimes. It happens to every artist. Every artist has uninspired days, rushed days or any other type of day that results in low-quality artwork. If you see an artist who never seems to fail, then all this means is that they aren’t showing you the failed paintings that they’ve made.
If you fail at making a piece of art, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad artist or that you aren’t a “real” artist or anything like that. In fact, if you keep making art despite the occasional failure or uninspired day, then this probably means that you are a better and more real artist than someone who gives up on art after failing at it. Remember, all artists (even the really good ones) fail every now and then.
What failure means is that you tried. It means that, despite not feeling inspired or knowing exactly how to do something, you still tried. It means that you still have the motivation to make art. It means that making art still matters to you. It means that you want to make better art. In other words, it means that you are an artist. If you weren’t an artist, you probably wouldn’t even bother to try making a piece of art if failure seemed possible.
Failure is also, of course, a great learning tool. If you decide to try something new and you fail at it, then you can see where and how you went wrong. If you need to rebuild your confidence by making a few pieces of art that you can make before you return to the thing you failed at, then this is fine. The important thing is to keep trying and to keep experimenting, since you’ll get it right eventually.
Failure also exists to make the inspired times seem even more inspired and to make the good paintings seem even more satisfying to make by comparison. In other words, you can’t have good paintings without the occasional failed one. So, it’s ok to fail every now and then.
Likewise, if you keep making art despite the occasional failure, then even your failures will get better. When it comes to something as subjective as art, failure is a very relative term. For example, the “failed” painting that I showed you earlier in this article looks terrible by my current standards. But, if I’d made it in 2012-14, then I’d have been extremely impressed by it. I’d probably even consider it one of my “best works”.
So, if you keep going despite the occasional failure, then you’ll get to the point where even your current failures look better than the “good” artwork that you made a few years ago.
Yes, making a failed painting or drawing can be incredibly annoying or dispiriting when it happens. But, it’s ok to fail sometimes. It means that you’re an artist.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂