Monday Motivator: Know When to Quit

‘…being a maker,  I often have projects that don’t work out. I used to feel guilty about those projects, like somehow I was a quitter or I lacked grit or I was taking the easy way out. However, as I began to interview painters and engineers and filmmakers and architects and entrepreneurs, I found that this was a universal part of the creative experience. To be productive, you have to be good at quitting. You need to know when a project isn’t working and cut it loose. I’ve come to realize that every maker has a cutting room floor with a ton of work that didn’t make the “final cut.” We iterate and revise and put things on hold. And that’s okay. It’s part of the creative journey.’

John Spencer, “Always Teach in Beta

If a painting isn’t working, and refuses to go anywhere satisfactory no matter how hard or long you try, then give up on it. For today, for tomorrow, for next month, year, and maybe forever. One unsuccessful painting doesn’t make you a failure. Nor do ten, nor a hundred. There are many reasons a painting doesn’t work out, but your being a failed creative isn’t one of them. Maybe you’re simply irritated and distracted because you can’t find a favourite brush?

One of my favourite techniques — drawing with ink — has a greater chance of failure than success because it’s impossible to undo. I can overpaint it, I can crop the offending part off, I can add more ink to hide it in darkness, but I can’t rub it out like I could pencil. Yet it’s this very property that makes it exciting. I know not to try it on location unless I have several sheets of paper with me, so I can try again and again. Back in my studio I sort them into what’s worked (if any), what might become something, and the that’s-probably-never-going-to-go-anywhere-but-I-won’t-tear-it-up-just-yet heap. Most will be in the latter, but without these I wouldn’t have done the others.

Paper is A3 size.

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