The Importance of Failure

One of the things I have found was failure (for example: not making back the cost of having a show and even not selling a piece and perhaps having bad reviews) GETS EASIER TO TAKE. But that comes after it has to be so familiar that it is no longer the single criteria that determines if you are going to do the hard work of being an professional artist.

Nevertheless, failure is the end of some really talented fledgling careers. The hard part is building with quick silver; having the accumulated experience that the work is finally substantial enough to stand up to real scrutiny on its own merits. In the beginning of a career there is so much out there to look at that it is hard to tell what is “good’. Sometimes what gets recognition is only what is novel or trendy. It therefore does not mean that failure is the real measure of talent, only that it should be expected. Creating the work is an isolating endevour at times. Learning to take critique and listen to your own voice when it is really true comes largely from appreciating failure.

Failure is like a tuning fork for the voice of the muse. It is this blending of the possible and the impossible that gives rise to enduring art. 

There is nothing in life that does not have a certain amount of failure as a necessary part of growth. Children who start early with a skill have years and years of “not getting it right” under their belts before they get to school and often as soon as they get out of school, they start learning it some more.

J.K. Rowling gives a wonderful and moving talk that touches on some of this:

Okay, so why when I have a painting to do, do I want to write and when I have writing to do I want to throw rocks?

I don’t want to throw rocks randomly.  I want to arrange them neatly at the bottom of the garden but while getting some good shoulder action in to it.  It’s a big hill.

The Little Art Show is coming.  I am no longer a member of the Artist’s Network of Riverdale, mainly because I can’t afford the membership this year, (taking some college courses) and because I have decided that trying to flog my paintings is just depressing which I suppose is a dumb reason for someone who suffers from chronic depression.  Nevertheless I am going to donate a painting for the upcoming fundraiser.  I have only two days to get it done.  I should be painting right now.  I love painting.  I am always happy once I get started.  What I do not enjoy is getting started. 

The same thing with writing:  As soon as I get settled in a routine I start to resent it.  It is an unfortunate pattern.  I am aware of it when I do Zazen (Zen sitting practice) which I haven’t been doing…

It's the one in the middle with the Boston terrier going crazy. The dog's name is Jim.

I will post a picture of last years submission.  I was late last year too.  I didn’t make it in on the website because of it.  But I was there, this is proof!

I’m trying to stream Heart Like a Wheel by Anne and Kate and it is taking forever

This is in response to Tristan Murphy circa Amateur, posting a link to video of  Bruce Pennisula performing “Shanty Song” on facebook. 

I wonder if in the future there will be lyrics like:

“my heart is like a song that can’t be downloaded, broken and faultering and misunderstood.”

Don’t get me wrong, Bruce Pennisula are great, but I suppose it is my age that makes me miss Anne and Kate when I hear them.  I should get over it, or die or something. 

RIP dear Kate.

There are a lot of things to feel sad about.

A few years ago I had just gotten out of the hospital when I learned of the tsunami that hit South East Asia.  I remember thinking, wow, the earth is way more upset than I am.   I had started crying for no reason and could not stop so I checked in to the hospital after not sleeping for 48 hours and they gave me a nice pink pill and I slept for a while, got fitted with a therapist, an appointment and sent home.

I got a diagnosis  of “chronic depression”.  I tried medication for a while and I worked while taking it.  It was difficult.    I eventually went off the drug.  I was told  that I had probably been chronically depressed since childhood.   Right or wrong I did not feel the drug was the way for me to deal with it.

It was Christmas. I was overwhelmed by of loss and hopelessness.  I had lost a few friends.  Some of them had been cancer patients. Some of them simply fell away.  Two long time relationships came to an end. One of them ended by choice, the other not so much.  My kids were all teenagers.  So there were personal things, but there were also global things.  Everything was just so sad. 

I would say I am still basically depressed.  It is my personal “flavour”.  (I’m told that I am very funny). I  laugh, get mad and cry.  I try not to have too many expectations and I filter out the negative as much to compensate for this tendency to think the worst.  I don’t mind feeling this way.  I think in some ways it helps me be more compassionate.  Sometimes the only thing that can make me feel better is to try to help someone else feel better.

It’s funny in a way that I eventually found Clowning.  I quite literally “put on a happy face”.  Clowning provides an opportunity to play;  to address difference; to air out fears; to joke about the unknown without being so artless as actually saying so.  

Clowning is so flagrantly inappropriate, it makes other things that we find difficult to talk about less inappropriate.  


I’m a sensitive clown. 😛

Had a great day painting yesterday!

I went to get a few more paints from Stevenson’s in Scarborough.  It is a factory outlet and the quality is excellent.  I like the staff too.  I had a great conversation about the Knox Albright Gallery in Buffalo.  It was nice to find someone else who has been to this little gem.  Not only is it an excellent collection of Modern Art, the whole atmosphere is welcoming and even the guards seem to love the art work!

I finished my painting based on Sally’s photo and inspired by Emily Carr.  I am quite happy with it.  I hope Sally is!

It is a bit cropped but not a bad copy colour wise.

Reconnecting with old friends

I had the good luck to reconnect with some one I knew 30 years ago!  My life was in total disarray and I was trying over and over to extricate myself from an abusive relationship.  A mutual friend told me about a woman who was looking for someone to share her house, along with her daughter.  Her daughter was Sally, funny: sweet and kind, a few years younger than me, but far more capable, I flattered myself in thinking she was like a “little sister”.  I only lived with them for a year but it was a year of changes for me and sometimes I think it was a year that saved my life! 

I did a Facebook search and found her, we have gotten together a couple of times and I follow her posts. She is still funny, sweet and kind and probably still more capable.  Recently she took a trip to Alaska and this is one of the photos.

I am excited to have a focus for painting again!  I am also happy to reconnect with Emily Carr, the eccentric, compassionate Canadian painter loosely associated with The Group of Seven.  She traveled in B.C. and Alaska and was influenced by the art of the Coastal Kwakwaka’waka, (is this where we get our famous “WakaWaka!” expression?) Haida and other First Nations. Financial constraints forced her to end her travels.  She settled in Victoria B.C. a very conservative place at the time and almost gave up painting entirely (something I can understand completely).  Emily Carr is something of a touch stone for me.  She reminds me to paint, paint, paint or I will go mad!