Artists and The Illusion of Failure

Well, guys, I messed up.

I had so many big plans for this year and I haven’t achieved any of them.  I had an action plan that began by entering Painting Drama, a course on narrative composition, with a dedication to push my artwork to the next level.  I had an actual written strategy guide to paint exactly four portfolio pieces to present at IlluXcon this year, which is coming up next week.

I’ve only managed to do ONE in all this time.

Life has been chaotic beginning with a very traumatic death in our family.  Just when we were starting to breathe again, we also had to deal with unexpected health concerns and our apartment flooding, which resulted in having to pick up and move yet again after having moved less than six months ago.

But of course, my artbrain can’t see the cause of my ‘failure’, it only sees the effect.

It tells me “If you had slept less and painted more, you would have succeeded!”

“Why can’t you focus and be more productive? There is nothing physically wrong with you!”

That little voice inside that most artists have telling them that they’re crap for not being productive doesn’t acknowledge the fact that we are not machines programmed to plot points on a paper no matter the circumstances.  We drive ourselves to succeed, even when we are not up to the task, even when our work would suffer from our lack of focus, when sometimes we just need to take time to heal instead.  When we don’t hit a certain benchmark of success, there is a dangerous point where we feel like giving up because the steps to succeed are just too small and too ineffectual.

And that is where the illusion of failure wraps us up in a cushion of despondency.  I messed up, so why should I keep trying if it will never pay off or show results?

Thankfully, I can say after going back and forth with these feelings, I can whole-heartedly tell myself STOP THAT.  Sometimes, life is just out of our control and there is nothing we can do except acknowledge this fact and move on to the next thing.

Art has never been about the end result.  For me, it is about the inspiration.  It is about the joy I get when I take a story out of my brain and express it in such a way that another person outside of my own brain can feel the drama and the passion of it and be inspired.

(Honestly, if I ever painted the ‘perfect’ image, I think I would lose some interest because where is the fun in never learning something new? OR I’d have to get a perfect image every time from that point onward and striving for that second achievement of perfection would just drive me on more!  Or I’d just go a little insane by the end…)

Art is about doing what I’m passionate about every day because that is how I want to live my life.  Spending 90% of my time here on earth at a job that bores me to tears is not how I choose to live or what fulfills me as a person.  When I do a non-art related job to pay my bills, it is also a way to support me while I create.  It is never ‘that thing I do because I failed at art’.  Considering it a failure is only a matter of perspective.

And so it is that failure is an illusion.  I have failed only when I stop doing what I’m doing or stop acknowledging my own passion as an artist.  Sure, I may have messed up and didn’t paint all the things I wanted to paint in the past, but that does mean I cannot create more in the future.

Being too old, too broke, too slow, these are only self-imposed restrictions that do not exist until we let them control us.  As long as a brush/stylus/pencil and sketchbook/canvas/etc. are in front of me and the ideas are stuck in my brain, there is the potential for art to happen.  I can succeed.

I strongly consider this 4th year of operation as Angelic Shades Studio to be my Year One.  I’m starting over with a new focus, a new dedication to the narrative works I’ve always wanted to create, and a new drive to really get my name out there.  I will not be afraid that I am not good enough anymore.  If something is not good enough, I will simply ask myself and other artists and AD’s “How can I improve?”  I will be fearless in accepting critique and showing my work to others.

I will not stop.  Stopping is not an option.

There is no spoon…nor is there such a thing as failure.

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello Angela,

    I’m sorry to hear about your recent loss and forced move. I’m very glad that you have such a reasonable and healthy fortitude to get you through the rough patches. I know it ain’t easy! Good luck at Illuxcon, and I can’t wait to see what you create next!
    Anita Gleason

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