Rescuing failure

Ellwanger-Berry Garden, 12X16, oils. This almost got scraped out; it’s ended up being one of my favorite paintings.
There’s a view outside my house that has defeated me. It is a sycamore set against a curving street. It’s elegant, architectural, and should be easy enough to paint. But I’ve yet to realize it in a plein air painting.
If you fail at something, hooray! That means you’re pushing past what you know. You’re on your way to your next discovery. You’re breaking limits. Each failed painting, ironically, puts you one step closer to success.
Safe Harbor, 16X20, oil on canvasboard. Sometimes you have to paint something repeatedly before you get it right.
It’s a good thing that failure is such a positive thing, since I do it so frequently.
Occasionally, when a painting is past salvaging, I scrape it out and accept my failure. But if it’s not completely terrible, I save it, set it aside, and go back and look at it later. Sometimes I have found that some good paintings completely eluded me at the time I did them. But regardless, when it starts to go wrong, I’ve learned to stop throwing more time, energy, or paint at it.
Failure sucks, but the only way to defeat it is to try again. That doesn’t mean going back to that sycamore and beating it up with a pencil; it means painting again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day after that.
Moorings, 14X18, oil on canvasboard. I didn’t like this when I painted it. Marilyn Feinberg, who was with me, liked it. I’ve come to agree with her. Another set of eyes is always helpful.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.