Why Failing in Art is Good

Last week I made some art… and it was absolute rubbish. The pieces were cracked, the glaze was flaking off, and overall a big hot mess. They are destined for the pottery graveyard of recycled grog. This is actually a good thing. Why? Believe it or not, EVERY artist fails. Regardless of if that artist is successful or just starting their career. Failing is inevitable but it’s how we learn and develop our skills to produce even better work.

Failing in art doesn’t even need to be about the actual art. There are so many steps as a practising artist where you can fail. You can write a proposal for a gallery that gets rejected, you could enter multiple competitions and not even make the initial selection. And if you do manage to get selected or find yourself lucky enough to be part of an art stable – there are always the curveballs of life and unforeseen circumstances or technical issues, resulting in missed deadlines, budget issues, cancelled shows, talks or workshops. Even if you’re lucky enough to tick all those boxes and succeed with your artwork and shows, perhaps you are failing in other areas of your life. Are your relationships suffering? Do you have a good work/life balance? How is your mental or physical health? I don’t raise these questions to judge. I acknowledge that we are all human and we are all far from perfect. We make mistakes and sometimes we fail in spectacular fashion.

Personally, I’m failing with my time management. I would love to have more time to make art, write proposals and create grand, elaborate exhibitions. Right now I’m failing at all these things but they give me goals to work towards. Realistically, I have to balance full-time work, art making, my other hobbies, my relationships, general life admin and also my sanity. If I reflect properly on my “failures” and what’s holding me back, I can start making little progress changes. At first, I set a goal to work on my art EVERY night after my day job, but then my relationships and my mental health started to suffer. I’ve now set more realistic expectations for myself: complete a few nice pieces each month, enter a completion here and there, and work on my website. I might not be able to make art full-time (yet) but I’ll dedicate a few hours each week to chip away at projects.

My latest piece I produced on Christmas morning! (when I finally had a few hours all to myself).

Failing does not mean you should give up, become complacent or ignore feedback. Perhaps you didn’t even realise you failed until critiqued by someone with more experience or someone who just didn’t “get” your work. It’s easy to get validation on social media platforms, we are slaves to the dopamine from strangers hitting a like button. What about when someone reacts badly to your artwork or something you’ve invested time and energy to create? It can sure feel like failing but perhaps these comments are a golden opportunity for open and honest reflection… a fresh, objective art lens.

I want to normalize failing. Be proud of your failures because it means you had the courage to try in the first place. Collate your failures as learning experiences that will ultimately make you an even better artist.

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