Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Seattle Paintings #1: FAIL big and go home

A friend commissioned several paintings to decorate his apartment. As my very first commission, I was nervous to come up with something satisfactory. I took him to a paint store and asked him to pick out a color palette of acrylic paint and canvases, and asked for a list of images he is drawn to. After several months of incubation, planning, trial and error and more error, I came up with seven satisfactory paintings. But, before I get to my successes, I'd like to present a painting that I fondly titled FAIL.

This was my first attempt of the series. It was the first concept that I came up with and since it is the smaller of the two large pieces, I thought I'd get the "easier" one out of the way. Wrong. This painting was the bane of my existence for several months. I was plagued with the frustration of being completely unable to translate my vision to the canvas. Most of my paintings start off as a relatively clear picture in my mind that then transforms and evolves as it comes into being. This one sucked when I started it and sucked when I finished/abandoned it. I attempted concept after concept, a variety of methods, I painted white over entire sections, I took breaks and completed other paintings, I asked several helpful artistic minds for input and I still managed to fail. I lost sleep mulling it over and woke up in the middle of the night with a new brilliant idea that would save my crap painting, which never worked...

Two weeks prior to leaving Seattle, I put FAIL aside, bought a new canvas and cultivated a new frame of mind.
Sometimes you just have to know when to say when. If there was a theme for my year in Seattle, I'd say it was giving up. In a good way. I can't fix everything. Sometimes giving up is a perfectly appropriate and acceptable response. I tried to cover up the evidence of what didn't work instead of putting those remains aside for a blank slate with unlimited potential.

When I think about it (don't want to get too philosophical here, but I can't help but make the comparison), my dear FAIL was the physical manifestation of what was happening in several areas of my life. You can only put forth so much effort and invest so much time before you have to take a step back to admit to yourself that it is not working. I'd never given up on a painting before, I'd never given up on a relationship before, and I certainly hadn't taken a second look at the career that I've dedicated a decade and am now veering away from.

I don't know if FAIL ended up in a dumpster or as an eyesore on someone's wall, but either way I am grateful for FAIL for the hell it put me through and how wonderful it felt when I figured my way out of it.

Moral of the story: Fail big. Fail often. Then get a new canvas and create something fantastic.

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