Degrees of Success

Minnesotans are required by law to comment on the weather at least once a day.  As an upstanding citizen – and one who is too well-mannered for prison – I feel obligated to make the following observation: this has been one of the least successful winters on record.  Let’s recap:

1)  No snow.

2)  No cold

3)  No adversity to brag about overcoming. . .

Actually, if one equates Fahrenheit degrees with success (like I do) this sounds like one of the most successful winters in modern history.  If things stay this way, Arizonans might start moving HERE to retire.

Like the weather, most creative endeavors can be hit-or-miss.  Even seasoned artists experience varying degrees of success from one piece to the next.  So what hope do the rest of us have?

During the past week, I made a couple more watercolors.  Each is successful in its own way, but to different degrees.  The previously mentioned portrait session rendered a striking likeness of the model, which will be the subject of Friday’s post.  At the same time, I finished a painting of an orange chair that I’d started earlier in the week:

The piece is charming in its own way, sure.  But it isn’t something that needs to be highlighted in my portfolio.

Firstly, the chair doesn’t quite integrate with the rest of the piece. It seems to hover.  Part of the reason for this lies in the paint application.  It’s thicker and less free than the background or the foreground.  That said, the brushwork on the chair is neither completely loose nor fastidiously tight.  One or the other would have been preferable to in-between.  To round out this list of grievances: the background seems unfinished, the paint application on the chair is muddy in parts, and the structure of it a little lop-sided.  Finally, the composition is a bit off.  The weight of the painting all tilts toward the lower left, which leaves an uncomfortable impression.

At the same time, there are some delightful things going on in this painting.  The sense of light and shadow on the chair is strong, and the tufted backrest really has a feeling of “puffiness” and volume.  Another point of interest is the cement floor.  What could have been a boring expanse, instead livens up the place.  The mottled coloration, the convincing cracks, and the texture are features that I intend to use again in a future work.

Try This One Weird Secret to Make EVERY Piece a Success:

Okay, there are actually two ways to accomplish this.  The first is to lie to yourself.  Tell yourself everything you do is great and couldn’t be better.

Or, you can move out of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and take a more honest – and practical – approach.  The real key is to making every work a success is to *learn* from the mistakes.  This is not to say you will learn to stop making mistakes.  Rather, you should keep making mistakes… and keep learning from each one.  Some pieces are not going to turn out the way you want them to, but you can apply the experience of making that piece to the next one, which may turn out to be one of the masterpieces.

The above has been an excerpt from my forthcoming self-help book: “The Ugly Orange Chair Approach to Learning Your Way Through Life.”

How about suggestion alternate titles?

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This entry was published on February 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm. It’s filed under Humor, MN, Seasons, The Artistic Process, Watercolors and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “Degrees of Success

  1. Pingback: What Comes Naturally (Hand In Mug) « Gabriel Garbow | Artworks

  2. and how about the notion of conversation…and changing ones mind and being able to say that’s not what i meant, and improv, and what makes a piece successful…i think there’s a whole place in this conversation for generosity of spirit, and the notion of exploration and along the way, the thing that caught my eye about the orange chair was how comfortable it looked…

    • You are so right, Judi. I will have to make sure to include some recognition of this in the near future. I was really torn about picking this piece apart too harshly. Sometimes, the artist doesn’t even appreciate the charms of their own works. It bothers me so much when singers ‘distance’ themselves from albums I really love. Just let me love it, already!

  3. That’s a great attitude to have with everything, not just art! Not ever time you do something is going to be perfect or successful…a lot of experience turn out to be pretty ugly, but if you can grow from it, then it means you’ve at least succeeded in the learning process.

    Great insight, enjoyed this one!

    • Thanks… debilitating ‘performance anxiety’ kept me from making any art for 10 years. I’m still learning to be comfortable with the notion that not every piece is going to be as successful as I hope for, but that’s all the more reason to keep creating.

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