Get, Set, Fail!




Every painting I make has failure points in it somewhere and most of them teeter on the edge of failure for days or even weeks! But I usually figure out a way to resolve whatever I feel the problem is, armed with a flexible and adaptable process that gives me lots of options to try. Day 3 of Louise Fletcher's 'Find Your Joy' taster course was all about feeling free to make unsuccessful work and letting it go.


In order to meet her instructions for the day (which was basically to paint something ugly) I decided to deliberately set myself up for a failure by choosing to use materials that I don't usually turn to. Watercolours, chalks/pastels and some ink and gouache. All things that linger in the dusty depths of my studio and that I rarely use and have very little experience in using or knowledge of from a technique point of view. I gave myself and hour and then I did indeed walk away from the results! Though I will save them as I may be able to reuse them for collage.


However, there were a few learnings to be had from the exercise. I did feel a freedom to just play around without worrying about creating a masterpiece of any kind, so that felt good. I did feel slightly as though I was testing myself to see if I could indeed turn this around and produce something I was happy with. But that didn't happen! I also became aware of how practiced I am at recognizing what 'failure' looks like for me and that I'm ok with it. I feel strongly that these experiences are all part of the artists way. We have to learn to absorb the ups and the downs and use this energy to propel us along on our journey with strong forward momentum.


I realised just how much I love creating layers in my work, through thickly applied paint and collage. I do love surface texture and a visible sense of history in my work that tells a story about the journey it's been on. I found I couldn't even begin to explore this with these materials. Perhaps with more technical skill and experience with watercolours in particular I could begin to achieve this, but I think I'd probably have to set aside a few months to really see whether or not I could integrate them into my process, or create a new body of work around it. I'm not saying I'm not up for the challenge, but I'm enjoying where I'm at with my process at the moment!


This challenge left me with a greater awareness of what I am pursuing in my work and those aspects that don't light my fire or encourage me to get into the studio on a daily basis. It's helped affirm for me that I'm going in the right direction and putting energy into art making that feels right for me.






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