Wait! Don’t Toss Those Failures or You’ll Throw Away Your Successes Too!

Wait!  Don’t Toss Those Failures or You’ll Throw Away Your Successes Too! post image

I’m sure you’re just like me and you’re perfectly satisfied and happy with every watercolor you paint. Right?

I’m kidding! I can only speak for me but the truth is often the opposite.

As I look down on that recently completed piece, I might experience a sense of quiet despair. Sometimes, all I can see is the time and effort I “wasted” to produce something that feels like a flop. And it seems like I’ve missed the mark again.

When I step back and give myself a day or two, allow myself some distance from the work, this perception always changes.

I start to see the wins instead of just the failures in the effort.

For example, take the painting of the Impatience Flower above–perfectly named for this topic–that I shared earlier this week.

When I finished this watercolor seen at the lower right corner, all I could focus on was dissatisfaction with how I handled the blossom edges. I almost tossed it into the trash.

But my wiser self held back. Sure enough, a few days later, I realized that there were more things I liked than disliked about the painting, such as how I’d handled the color–especially the vibrant pink–the layering, and the negative space.

I still didn’t like the treatment of the edges, but this criticism was not as dominant and I decided to focus on improving this perceived weakness.

And that’s what I did in this next painting of a bee, nestled-in to feast on the nectar of some lovely blossoms I saw in our local park last spring.

I was much happier with this painting all around.

The background foliage was softer. The subtle suggestion of a yellow blossom in the upper right corner felt just right. Smaller softer-edged white petals formed larger individual flower blossoms in gentle transitions.

And then there’s the bee. I felt quite satisfied with that bee!

I hope this helps you, and gives you encouragement the next time you feel like giving up on your work. Keep going. Persist. Allow yourself the gifts of failure. These could give you your greatest successes.


PS: When you’re not happy with a painting here are a few things you can do to help figure out what isn’t working.

Turn the painting upside down for another perspective on the balance and rhythm in the composition.
Squint your eyes to eliminate distracting detail.
Put the painting away for a few days; return with fresh eyes.
View the painting through a piece of red acetate or plastic. This will help you assess relative color values.


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