Friday, May 04, 2012

Flying Girl and the Wave, or I Am a Part of It All

Flying Girl and the Waves, or I Am a Part of It All (revised)
Acrylic Paint on Moleskine, 8"x5"

This painting is actually a revision of a previous painting, done almost three years ago. I was not comfortable with the original green in all those years, I'd look at the painting and then put it away again. There was something I liked, yes, but also something that I just didn't like.

Flying Girl and the Waves, or Go With the Flow

Oh, okay. Here it is. I didn't change that much except I painted over the green with various shades of blue. And then, all of a sudden, I was not only okay with it, but I really liked it.  The problem was the color scheme, I'm sure. It was all too hot, and too close, with the yellow green and the yellow gold and the goldy brown. There wasn't enough contrast, or something.

Sometimes I takes a while for me to get a handle on what is not exactly working. Sometimes I need to take a break from whatever it is, ignore it, put it away and just not bother with it.

There's nothing wrong with failures. Isn't that an odd thought?

It's okay to fail.

Getting things wrong is good.

I'm just trying to get a handle on this concept. But how? you say. How is it okay to fail? Failure is bad, isn't it? Failure means you can't do it, you messed up, you didn't live up to expectation, you got it all wrong, oh woe is me I'm just not good enough. Right?

But here's the thing... from failures, we learn. When we make a mistake, we learn what DOESN'T work. By understanding the not-no-negative, we can discover the outline of the positive. Just like you can draw a chair by focusing on what the chair is not, the air around it, the negative space. What isn't the negative space is, ta-da! The Chair.

And here's the other thing. Just because something doesn't turn out doesn't mean it's a dead end. Once you have something to work on, you have the ability to work on it. Sometimes a blank page is much harder to tackle. I took out this old painting and I had a place to start. I fixed it up and started to love it. If you can look at something old with new eyes, if you can objectively see the good in something, and also see what fails, then you can work on making it succeed. Sometimes the distance of time allows you to see things without all your old feelings and thoughts and preconceived notions attached. You can re-vision it. You can revise it.

I am comforted by the fact that I can look back on my archive, on my history, on my past and find things that I can use today. I can learn from past mistakes and bring those lessons into the present. I can also use what I've learned in the intervening years and improve on the failures of the past. I can go back to the things that I have done and bring them back. I can do it with an old painting or I can do it with an experience. For instance, I am not teaching High School anymore, but I learned so much from the experience, and I can pull on those skills I learned, in many, many areas of my life.

Think back in your life to an experience or project or lesson that did not work out the way you expected it to, something you gave up on or put away. Are there things that you can take from that and bring into today? Are there unfinished projects that you gave up on that are ready to see the light of day again? Any trunk novels or afghan squares that need to be crocheted into a blanket?  Are there "bad" projects that you can now give a new life to? Take some time and look at your own archive, your own history. Is anything ready for your re-vision?

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