Friday, September 22, 2017

A High Tolerance for Failure

One of my favorite games is Bananagrams, a variation of Scrabble where each player works on their own puzzle and can rearrange tiles as they go.  You have to be fast though and use all the tiles before your opponent.  I play with my son, and I lose at least 19 out of 20 times, but I always look forward to playing again.

I was recently telling him about my hip hop class in which I am, without any doubt, terrible.  I can barely learn one dance step before we move to the next one.  And I am so far from having anything that resembles swag, it's just sad.  But I love to go!  After he heard about it, he said, "Mom, you have such a high tolerance for failure.  Most people don't keep wanting to do things they are so bad at."

His comment got me thinking of how important accepting failure is to painting.  I usually work on paintings for days, weeks, sometimes months, so that means there are plenty of days that they feel like failures until I get to that final point where I'm satisfied.  One of the most enlightening books I read about painting was Willem DeKoonig's biography.  I always admired his raw, energetic brush strokes and the spontaneous way he puts paint on the canvas.  I was shocked to learn that Woman I took him 3 years to paint!  He labored endlessly over all of his paintings.  So that means day after day of feeling like they failed.

I'm sure not everyone paints this way.  Someone like Carol Marine, who puts out a very accomplished  painting each day, must end her days with a feeling of satisfaction and success, even if she doesn't love every single painting.  But mine is more a slow process of discovery, changes, trial and error.  Many errors. It's an ongoing reminder to stay focused on the process and not worry about the final product, or I would end each day in frustration.  As long as I keep enjoying the steps along the way, I can use my high tolerance for failure to keep me going.

Here's another I finished in the Breath of Fresh air series, thinking of fresh, clear air on our smoke-filled days.

Untitled, acrylic on paper, 16x20"

I'm liking my palette at the moment, starting to lean a little more towards fall tones.


Dreamcicle Journeys said...

Robin, what you say is so true about frustration and sticking with the process even when things don't go well. I really like these two new paintings- the contrast of light and dark,the abstraction of imagery. Wow

Robin Olsen said...

Thanks Paula. It seems to be one of those hard lessons that has to be learned over and over, doesn't it?