Fail First and Succeed Later: Art Risk and Reward in 3 Steps

image with text by winston churchill


Are you stuck in an art "rut"? Are you making the same type of work over and over again? Perhaps you feel pressure to stick to a certain style, size, medium, subject matter. This pressure may be caused by the outside influence of good sales on this work. Maybe you fear that the work is what you feel you are "known for" and to change might alienate your fans? You might be 100% content with what you are doing and if so - keep on keepin' on! This post probably isn't for you. This post is for the others out there. The artists that hear a little voice inside that pines and whines for a little change and excitement. Something new. "Go on I dare you!"  it says. 


I had the experience, within the past year, of getting out of a partial art "rut". It required risk. It required failure. It took a longer time than I had thought. It was hard to get started. It made my heart beat fast. It was exciting .... and then I realized that I had made something really quite ugly. I certainly moped around and felt really broken up about the whole situation. Declaring the half-formed painting an eyesore I hid it away and went back to my regular painting determined to put the whole situation out  my mind. Little did I know that something had shifted, a seed had been planted. Over the next 6 months my work began to incorporate more and more of the change that I had longed for in that first attempt. At long last I looked back and could see that I had finally created the work that was just "out of reach" during that first attempt.


Here's what I learned from this experience in 3 steps:


1. Plant the seed. Give yourself permission to make something that is an experiment. Explore. Be playful. Be a scientist. That thing you secretly want to try - try it! Don't worry about what others will think - you don't have to present this to people as a finished work, you don't have to show anyone at all.


2. Weather the storm. Get comfortable with a little frustration and alot of unresolved pieces. This will be a self-inflicted attack on the ego. Stay tuned for harsh emotional weather such as the tornados of self-doubt and the downpour of disappointment. Don't worry about it! Return to your comfort zone frequently for shelter from negativity and observe some of the changes that you bring back from your experiments as they sneak into your work.

Weather the Storm

3. Reap the reward. Changes that take time and longer evolution are the most satisfying. Take time to celebrate the outcome and see the process in a positive light. The art "rut" you were in was just part of the evolution to get to this new work. 


Image source [1]

Image source [2]

Written by: rebecca chaperon
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