Overworked / Failure

Dan recently blogged about failures: “So many people try to hide failure.
Sometimes, they want to hide it out of embarrassment and sometimes they want to hide it out of fear. I don’t want to fail, but when I do, I want to learn from failure.”
My dialogue with Dan continued in my head: failures teach so much, so why do so many teachers try to hide them? I thought about West Wing, Galileo, when it fails, and they decide to continue with the press conference so the kid who fails in school can see that even high-stakes enterprises fail, and we pick up and learn from it and try again….

web ixtapa parachuteI’ve taught design+creativity most of my
life to all age groups.  I taught about failures
and creative blocks and being stuck and
all the real things creatives go through.
One phenomena I noticed teaching design
at UCLA, was that anytime I had a particularly difficult project that was uninspiring or
I was stuck, creative blocks or
where-one-gets-ideas was always the
what the students would ask about during critiques.  We teach most what we need to learn, though many of us don’t know it at the time.

I always told the truth: when stumped I read Sherlock Holmes, a chapter from Pooh,
went for a walk on the Venice Beach boardwalk, or made a big beef stew from scratch.

I get paid for my brushstrokes every day in our business
(oil paint, shellac, traditional finishes on objects, above), and I am always learning, pushing the boundaries, taking on tasks I’ve never had the pleasure to treat!
Sometimes I have failures, and have to repair my own work.  I am redoing a failure on the circus ball above as we speak.  I tried a shortcut using Gamblin’s FastMatte oil paint without knowing there is a trick to layering: it’s all in the fats….

I started this blog when I switched from acrylics to watercolors.
I was 100% out of my depth, learning on the fly, by myself, no teachers.

It’s been two years.  Posting my struggles and experiments has been good for
many readers, and I don’t feel so isolated in my explorations.
I’ve published a lot of “failures” and struggles.

W16 4 12 PENTALIC BEGINI don’t rip out the failures from my sketchbooks.
This first
page (left) is not one of my favorites….
It’s a mess,
the drawing of the refillable felt-tip pen.

I believe success in any creative endeavor is a combination of equal parts:

  • time spent with tools and materials daily;
  • the willingness to fool around, play, or experiment — invoking the child and giving the ego/critic something else to do;
  • trusting your own direction once you have some skills;
  • natural abilities or “talent.”

This means anyone can be an artist.

W16 5 20 PENTALIC SUNFLOWER 01This week I tackled the buildup of yellows, which I find difficult.
I tried Tracey’s method of building up with under-colors: first yellow layer.
That is where I might have stopped before.

W16 5 20 PENTALIC SUNFLOWER 05Second layers as I am painting, wet on dry, (that is wet bubbling paint on the left)
with the addition of a marigold yellow.  Note the deep color.

W16 5 20 PENTALIC SUNFLOWER 07I also did a two-layer green also for the leaves.

However, I think the sunflower is overworked.
I HATE the background, my first outing with Cobalt Violet.
I am not impressed with the depth of the color, though I like the granulation.
My juicy wash went awry, and I’m not sure why!


Pentalic Aqua Journal, with a Pentalic HB woodless pencil, Platinum Carbon pen,
Lamy Al-Star with De Atramentis Document black Ink, and Daniel Smith watercolors.


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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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4 Responses to Overworked / Failure

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I love this post Kate. To know that someone as talented as you are, sometimes fails (perhaps that’s a bit strong) teaches a lot. Mostly, it teaches/inspires those of us who fail at new things, not to give up. I’ve read some of your posts where you tell us how you aren’t happy. Of course, your painting is better than what I can imagine doing myself, but it’s encouraging to see someone who is passionate about learning. Thanks for the link and the example you set.


    • If you began painting daily you would see that you have talent — I don’t know about talent, but perhaps it is who I measure myself against? My acrylics have never garnered much attention! I do love to share all this — for many many MANY years I did it all alone… The internet changed that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And I’m surrounded by my failed words. But I’m getting closer. Closer.


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