Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thoughts on Failure

A friend of mine that I hadn't seen in forever recently asked me what I am doing with my life. He knew that I was studying illustration already, so my reply was simply "I am trying to find my style." How do you find your style/voice? From what I hear, it is all about trial and error.

Yesterday in class we had a critique. Near the end, my professor surprised me by emphasizing the importance of trial and error. He told us not to focus on creating masterpieces in school, but to take this time to experiment, to go out on a limb and to fail. This, he said, is how we will succeed. We have to fail so we can understand how to do something correctly. Sometimes our experiments will succeed and we can implement them into our work, but usually they will fail. Failure, however, is not necessarily a negative thing. Failure gives us the opportunity to pick ourselves up, clean up the scrapes and try something different.

I think that way too often I focus on perfection instead of the progress made by trial and error. From the first thumbnails, to the color studies, to the finishing touches, I am trying to create an amazing illustration that will knock the illustration world off their feet. This attitude usually cripples me. Instead of experimenting I cautiously color in the lines that I'm comfortable with. I'm not saying that having an optimist attitude about my work and working towards something beautiful are bad things, in fact I think they're both fantastic. What I'm getting at is that it is time for me to take that optimism and work, and point it in the direction of progress, not instant perfection.

My goal is to progress--not only in art, but in making paper airplanes, cooking edible rice, living life--even if that means falling on my back (or even my face), picking myself up, learning from my mistakes and trying something different. Basically what I'm trying to say here is that failure is not the enemy, it's the fear of failure that we have to run from.


Th. said...


I agree with you --- especially in the arts. I hope you internalize this lesson in school, because believing it's okay to fail when a profession is on the line is a lot harder to accept.

Will Strong (that's who) said...

I'm down. I feel that if you don't push yourself then you will never get frustrated with your work. Frustration is usually a sign of struggle. Struggle is progression if you don't give up.

Yes, I'm down.

Tori Harris said...

cooking edible rice, eh? that is a hard one for you :)

Hannah said...

i definitely needed to read this. Especially the part about trying new things, even if I fail.