This is a letter to myself, to artists, and to those who support us. And for museum goers. And beauty lovers. And pretty much anyone with a dream, aspirations, fear, passion, and/or a soul.
Why do you think we label failure as ugly?
If failing results in growth then why am I ashamed of it? Why am I afraid of it?
I visited the MET a few months ago and I walked through room after room of MASTERPIECE paintings by artists I respect profoundly. I remember my husband pointing out another Van Gogh, a massive Monet, “oh look! Another Picasso!”… and I walked up to them feeling so overwhelmed with the magnitude of the collection and the intensity of the artist’s vision and skill; it was all so, so, so beautiful – almost too beautiful.
And then we found some sketches by Degas tucked in a corner, framed in a simple wooden frame (was it actually a space-filler while the real painting was being shown somewhere else? Probably…). They were rough and messy – torn from a notebook – critiques scribbled in the margin – parts done over because they weren’t quite right… I could almost feel his frustration, but to me, this “ugly” mess of a drawing was one of the most refreshing thing I saw that day. It refreshes me still! It was the Process.
Along with that sketchbook page came the overwhelming reassurance than every single master represented in this grand place has their own mountain of unsuccessful canvases, a tubes of expensive paint “wasted”, hours (decades) of work, self doubt, tiny victories, sleepless nights, trial and error, and a whole lot of ugly. But these things are GOOD, remember? They are not to be avoided but to be sought after because they are the face of progress. They are the process.
And the crazy thing is, we kind of love it, don’t we. Like, a lot.
Falling deeply in love with the process is the sustenance and the nurturing energy behind every single “masterpiece”. That is what I am aiming for more than ever – the sustainable passion that will carry me through years and years of creativity. With that perspective, aiming for my one-off masterpiece feels mightily shortsighted and rather empty.
While I am a million paintings away from Degas’ skill (even his rough sketchbook drawing), the more work I create, the less precious the finished piece becomes to me, and the better I become at my art. It becomes easier to complete a piece, letting it slip from my studio and into someone else’s life, and the beauty of the creative process seeps deeper and deeper into my soul. THAT has become precious to me.
I love my paintings, but I could not live without the process.
Join with the hundreds of other artists who are hard at work, enjoying the process on Instagram with the hashtag #DoItForTheProcess. The community is strong.