Saturday, 12 October 2013

Why artistic failure is a landmark of success

I look up from my canvas and sigh. There she is: a Quasimodo of gnarled chin and bulbous nose. I grin. How could a perfectly good painting go so wrong? I started this particular face just as carefully as anything else, and yet here she is... an impossible tangle of shadows and scuffs, the nose rising far too high between mismatched eyes; ugly.

I don't think there's any way to fix this mess -- the only thing to do is to begin again.

There's this interesting tidbit I've been turning around in my head recently. I wish I could say it was from an amazing book that I read, but the reality is a bit more embarrassing.

So actually, someone recommended a book to me and I haven't taken the three seconds to put it on hold at the Library. Okay, if I am to be completely honest, I haven't taken the three seconds to get my husband to put it on hold at the Library.

(I pretend like it's more efficient if I get him to reserve it, but we all know it's pure laziness.)

Anyways. It's called Breaking Points, and -so I've been told- it talks about how ten thousand hours seems to be a breaking point... how if a person spends ten thousand hours working at something, he or she crosses a threshold from being pretty good at that thing to having mastered it.

The book [apparently] cites the Beatles, how they had a regular all-night gig, and how putting in all that time forced them to be coming up with new material constantly because they couldn't just play the same five songs all night.

*  *  *

It got me to thinking. I want to be good at visual art. What, exactly, I'm not sure I could put into one knockout sentence.

I'm just learning. Which gives enormous freedom, because I don't have to turn this specific piece that I'm working on into my Magnum Opus-- I can relax and experiment a little, and if it doesn't turn out, so what? I'll be back at my easel tomorrow.

I notice just how intricate a hand is, and in getting it all wrong, it shows me what a miraculous thing the hand is, and gives me the spark to try again... to study the original until I can see where I went wrong (half the problem) and revel in the beauty of light and shadow wrapping around flesh.

My arithmetic is poor, so I sat on my patio steps in the sunshine for several minutes, counting on my fingers with a Neanderthal frown. And I think, at my current rate of study, when I am 49, I will have put in my 10,000 hours.

Wondrous news! Not to have earned a scrap of paper or the applause of The Public, but within myself-- imagine the satisfaction, the delight, of being able to convey beauty onto canvas!

Graspable. Just two hours a day.

*  *  *

Now that I've written a heady post I had no business writing about a book I've never even read, the guilt's layered on pretty thick.

I think I'll get it out of the Library. Tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. "The Tipping Point" says my husband, not even bothering to make fun to me for getting the title wrong.
    "It's called 'The Tipping Point' and I put it on hold for you."